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Visitors urged to stay out of pine-clad reserve at Opoutere. Photo: DOC

Visitors urged to stay out of pine-clad reserve at Opoutere

Holiday makers and residents in the seaside Coromandel settlement of Opoutere are being urged to stay out of a coastal reserve where hundreds of deteriorating pine trees present a safety risk.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is responsible for a strip of coastal reserve land near the settlement’s sand spit. The reserve is clad in thousands of mature pine trees.

In 2017, DOC discovered 380 of the pine trees had been targeted in what is thought to have been a deliberate poisoning.

The poisoned pines are dead or dying and continue to drop branches and debris to the ground below. The condition of the trees also presents a fire risk in an area subject to a fire ban.

DOC Hauraki operations manager Avi Holzapfel said his staff had three current focus areas for the site – engaging with iwi on a long-term plan for management of the site, which includes an urupa/burial site; removal of the trees; and communicating with the community to ensure they understand the risk and are aware of the fire ban in force.

While DOC staff continued to develop a plan for the removal of the dead and dying pines, Avi said the message to the public was simple – “keep out”.

“We’re acutely aware of the risk and we’ve consistently asked the public to understand it, too,” Avi said.

“We have signage and fencing around the site, and we ask the public to adhere to that.”

Residents and visitors are also urged to report any suspicious behaviour in or around the reserve, either to 0800 DOC HOT or to NZ Police.