Born of anger , ARAC was formed as a user group following a public meeting to counter Wellington Regional Council’s decision to close the Akatarawa Forest to motorised recreation. Although only perceived as a temporary closure, nonetheless, public opinion was so enraged that over 200 people attended the public meeting on the 26th May 1997.

Things have come a long way since then, with both Council and ARAC finding common ground on which to discuss the future of motorised recreation in the majestic Akatarawa block. So much so, that far from being adversaries, ARAC and WRC have formed a close working relationship with mutual respect for the desires and aspirations of each other.

After many long and arduous meetings, including on site inspection by Council Members, Guidelines for the Management of Motorised Recreation within the forest were submitted to a full Council hearing during November 1997 and endorsed overwhelmingly. These Guidelines now form the basis for not only guaranteed year-round recreational access, but also include provision for ARAC members to be actively involved in the preservation and improvement of facilities within Akatarawa,

One of the earliest decisions made by ARAC was to adhere to the TREAD LIGHTLY! ethics programme. For those who have not yet heard of TREAD LIGHTLY!, it’s primary objective is to encourage the sustainable use of all the great outdoors. It does not exist to prevent you enjoying your chosen sport, rather to be aware that there are places where it will be appropriate and others where it is not.

TREAD LIGHTLY! has a short acronym to help you remember it’s basic principles: –

  • Travel only where permitted
  • Respect the rights of others
  • Educate yourself
  • Avoid creeks, wildlife, wetlands etc.
  • Drive and travel responsibly

So impressed were Regional Council with the TREAD LIGHTLY! philosophy, that WRC themselves became the first Council within New Zealand to affiliate to TREAD LIGHTLY! New Zealand. For anyone wanting further details, contact the Regional Council depot in Upper Hutt

Other joint ventures between ARAC and WRC include track maintenance, signage (especially exit signs), education, identification of helicopter landing areas and the larger one-off projects such as this – rebuilding the Orange Hut. The only provision ARAC have made is that is must be painted Orange! The Regional Council were happy to agree.

ARAC is here to stay, as is Council’s willingness to liaise with all interested user groups to preserve and protect the Akatarawa Forest for all recreational users, yet allow each and everyone to practice their own particular brand of outdoor recreation.