About 30 keen people turned up for Coastcare’s first walk for the year, despite threatened heavy rain. After a quick car shuttle, we set off from the Piha Road access to the newest local addition to the Regional Park.
During our walk to the Gap we were given historical snippets from several people, including Ranger Dan, local Piha historian Sandra Coney, Council Parks historical interpreter Michelle Edge, and our youngest contributor, 12 year old Ruby.
We found that the Gap does indeed have a colourful past. The current road access to the Gap was the closest road to Piha until about 1932 when a road built by relief workers during the depression allowed cars to reliably access Piha. The Gap was the site of one of the earliest homes in Piha, and later the enterprising owners served tea and scones to intrepid travellers, who first had to pay threepence to use the access road to get to there. Council was close to purchasing the property in the 1960’s, we nearly lost it to luxury tourism in the early 1990’s and finally Auckland Council was able to purchase the property from the Byers family in 2014.
We were very impressed by the dramatic beauty and extent of the land. It is bounded by Lograce Road to the south, close to Piha Road in the east, and up to the Pearce land in the north. And of course, includes the outstanding gem, the Gap, with its blowholes and the Tennis Courts.
At the site of the Tennis Courts, we were shown photos of how it used to be – a large expanse of pristine Selliera radicans, sometimes known as Snogging grass. In the last 15 years or so, since Johnny Byers stopped weeding out both exotic weeds, and invading natives, the unimpeded coastal meadow, it is rapidly disappearing. One of the subjects of current discussions about how the park area will be presented and preserved for the future is whether the native and exotic invaders should be removed, restoring the historic and botanically important last remaining coastal meadow remnant in the Auckland Region, or whether the area should be allowed to become a general mix of Oioi, Toetoe and other native plants, with fragments of Selliera struggling to survive.
The arrival of the rain, meant that we skipped the picnic on the beach, but we did take the time to return via the track to Piha, to see the contrast between the areas of the land that had been left smothered by dense gorse, and the Pearce land, where Sandra Coney and her family have spent countless hours eliminating gorse, allowing the native plants to break through and flourish.
If you have any views on how the Gap should be preserved, or any historical photos that could be copied by Council, please get in touch and we will direct your comments to the appropriate people.