Climbers wishing to scale the bluffs on Mauao’s north western face have been set the challenge of organising themselves and communicating with the Maunga’s governing body - if they wish to continue rock climbing on Mauao.
The consensus decision from deliberations this week on the new management plan submissions re-opens Mauao to rock climbers, but they will have to talk safety with the joint body that leads the management of Mauao, Nga Poutiriao o Mauao.
The climbing issue produced 37 submissions protesting the draft plan’s decision to ban rock climbing because of sacred sites, safety, and the endangerment of a rare plant. Subsequent investigation left safety as the remaining issue.
Trustee Jack Thatcher says none of the four climbing groups making submissions spoke about centralising management among themselves. Assurances by the rock climbers that they did things properly to avoid accidents, is not a safety plan, says Jack.
“I asked the question of them with the website and them having put out all these climbs to rock climbers all round the world; who manages the people that come in from offshore to climb these sites? And they said they do so themselves.
“To me that’s indicative of no regulatory management or framework around the operational status of those climbers. Anyone can do it. So each group of those four might have high standards of safety, but they can’t guarantee that everybody who comes in will follow their principles.”
He wants to see more on how the climbing groups could work together to create a safer environment for everybody.
There are 19,000 people a month walking the Oruahine track which passes round the rocks and under the climbing routes - and only a handful of people are rock climbing.
“They couldn’t convince me they could keep everyone safe,” says Jack. “So from my perspective unless they come up with a plan and that shows that they are going to put a management plan in place that regulates the operational side of their sport on the maunga, I’m not going support them at all in being able to continue climbing.”
Jack was supported by trustee Kihi Ngatai, and discussion moved to how it would be achieved. Councillor Leanne Brown says it’s up to the clubs to decide how to do that, possibly with the BOP Sport Climbing Association as lead – with possible assistance from the NZ Alpine Club as a technically expert body that could assist in sound rock climbing guidelines.
Leanne also suggested warning signs about climbers above the track will be like warning signs on the road.
“You become responsible, you enter that track it should be self-responsibility,” says Leanne.
City council reserves and recreation planner Clare Abbiss says Nga Poutiriao o Mauao can also approve individual climbing routes among the 50 or so available, and rule out those that overhang the track.