East Cape Lighthouse.
Two renowned spots to see in the New Year are closed to the public due to damage on access tracks, caused by weather events this year – the wettest in the region since 1878.
Access to the East Cape Lighthouse will remain closed to the public this summer as the track has sustained significant damage.
A large landslide in early September took out a 30m section of the track and the surrounding area was vulnerable to further movement, said Rena Kohere, speaking on behalf of the Kohere whānau.
“Watching the sunrise at East Cape Lighthouse is a major attraction for the region but we must emphasise that the track is not safe and we ask that visitors respect the closure notice, and the whenua and people of East Cape,” Kohere said.
The Mount Hikurangi Dawn Ceremony has been cancelled too, as the track is not suitable or safe for four-wheel-drive access, which is how people get to the peak.
“We understand that this decision may cause inconvenience. However, safety is our number one priority, and we feel that we have made the right call given the current circumstances,” a Te Runanganui o Ngāti Porou and Pakihiroa Farms Ltd statement said.
The East Cape Lighthouse is situated at the easternmost point of the North Island, 20km from Te Araroa, Tairāwhiti, within the Ngāti Porou rohe.
The track is managed by Maritime New Zealand and it is on an easement across the Kohere whānau land.
It was created for servicing and maintaining the lighthouse.
Since the land was returned to the Kohere whānau they have allowed public access across their whenua.
“We are continuing to work with Maritime NZ to repair the track but the scale of the latest landslide means that the job will be much harder than first anticipated,” Kohere said.
In November 2021, the whānau made the decision, at the request of their local community, to close public access to the lighthouse as a safety precaution to help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
During 2022 the East Coast was struck by numerous weather events that caused damage and closures to State Highway 35 and the East Cape Road.
The Lighthouse track was also damaged in these weather events and in November 2022 the landowners decided it was not safe to allow public access.
The landowners have been working with Maritime NZ who are responsible for repairs.
In February, the East Coast was hit by two cyclones, Gabrielle and Hale.
This article appeared in the Gisborne Herald and is republished with permission.