By Andrea Romano
January 23, 2020

New Zealand is known for having breathtaking views and beautiful, natural spaces to explore. But as an environmental threat looms over some of the country’s most popular trails, some hikers are only adding to the problem.

According to Lonely Planet, the New Zealand government has enforced some trail closures over the last few years to help control and eradicate a disease that is ravaging the unique kauri trees across the country. In addition, the government is levying fees as high as $60,000 New Zealand dollars (almost $40,000 USD) for those who violate the ban.

So far, 14 people have been caught trying to repeatedly access these prohibited areas, according to the New Zealand Herald. Tearing down or damaging fences around the trails has also become a problem.

Nazar Abbas Photography/Getty Images

The massive kauri trees are currently being threatened by the kauri dieback disease, Lonely Planet reported. The disease is a soil-born fungus-like organism and can attack the tree from its own roots, according to the New Zealand Herald. It’s also very easy to spread, especially through tracked soil from infected areas on hikers’ shoes.

According to Lonely Planet, one in five trees is now infected, which means containing the disease is harder than ever. These trees often live to be over 1,000 when healthy, so it is a particular tragedy to see the species destroyed so easily.

“There's been fences that have been taken down, chucked into nearby streams, signs that have been removed and it's just senseless vandalism. People that are a bit bored and pushing things over when they really don't need to," Auckland Council regulatory compliance manager Steve Pearce told Radio New Zealand. “We're trying to protect those ranges and those parks for all New Zealanders, all of our tourists, and a couple of silly people have gone and wrecked it for everyone.”

Pearce added that the entitlement of local hikers is often the reason why people are breaking the rules. “Generally it's people going, 'this is my local area, my forest, I'm allowed to be around here.'”

According to Lonely Planet, the Waitakere Ranges and Hunua Ranges are most affected by the disease, however, there is a full list of closed areas on the Auckland Council website.

Any visitors in potentially at risk (but still open) areas are required to use cleaning stations at every opportunity to help stop the spread of disease, the New Zealand Herald reported. Washing off shoes and equipment, dogs' paws, or anything that can track mud is a must. Staying off kauri roots and closed trails is also required.

More information on this disease and how to fight its spread can be found on the Kauri Dieback Program website.

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