Location: Woodhill Forest, Helensville
Access: Parking area at end of Rimmer Road, off SH16
Length: up to 10 km
Configuration: Network of tracks, with access to beach
Grade: Flat with some steep dune sections; sandy tracks and beach
Status: off leash
Cafes and restaurants: None locally
More information: http://www.woodhillforest.co.nz/forest-closures/
Email received regarding Woodpile Forest
All of the information to the public on this page apart from, there is public access to the beach for walking your dog via Rimmers Road, is incorrect.
As land owners and managers of Woodhill forest we have a system where all visitors to any part of the forest must be permitted before entering.
As we are an operational forest we currently have three harvesting crews moving through the forest, various other operations, including bird shooting and hunting in different blocks, the message from your site is in direct conflict with our Health and Safety policy and is endangering members of the public.
Please remove all references to walking dogs within Woodhill forest from your site. When we are able to designate an area for dog walking and we can ensure the safety of visitors, you will find that information on our website, www.woodhillforest.co.nz.
We thank you in advance for your swift action to ensure public safety.
Woodhill Forest is a large expanse of pine and other conifers, planted to help stabilise the dunes (and, of course, to provide some profit from timber). For many years, the forest has been extensively used for dog-walking , and in 2013 I wrote:
It's possible to enter the forest, and find walks, at several different locations. One of the best is probably at the end of Rimmer Road, where there's a large car park, from which several tracks and trails lead out into the forest or down to the beach. Where we go is more-or-less up to us. The beach is a few hundred metres away, the forest stretches north and south for as far as we're likely to walk. Not all of it is open to the public, but the tracks that are give access to a huge network of smaller, informal trails in which we can easily lose ourselves.
Like others on the west coast, the beach is long, straight, sandy and wild. On most days the sea either heaves or hurls itself onto the sand, so that we look down the beach through a grey haze of spray, and walk to the constant accompaniment of its roar or snore. The beach is also the play area for four-wheel-drivers and motorcyclists so it's worth keeping ears and eyes open both on the sand and on the tracks that leach down to the beach. They especially like trying to climb the steep dune faces, a game which may be fun but doesn't do the dunes much good.
In the forest things are quieter, and it's surprising how soon the sound of the sea fades to a sigh, and then to little more than a whisper. The main tracks are straight and easy to follow - and with even the most minimal sense of direction it's hard to get lost as long as we stay on them. But the smaller tracks inevitably tempt us, and they weave and wander through the trees in a bewildering fashion, and often don't go quite where we expect. At the edge of the forest, too, some of these peter out on the back of huge sand-ridges. Climbing these is more difficult than it looks, for the sand is loose, and there's often just another dune waiting for us when we cross this one. Short walks, therefore, can easily become much longer than intended (which is fine if we've time on our hands and some sandwiches in our pack - and water on a warm day).
In August 2015, however, I received the email shown to the left, from Tania Richards, Administrator NMWoKIL, Woodpile.
Whether or not dog-walking is still permitted, other than for access to the beach, is currently unclear - though friends report (November 2015) that dog-walking is still extensively carried out. It can also be argued that public safety is a rather over-used argument for restricting access to forests (and other areas) in New Zealand. In other countries (UK for example), public access to working forests is common, and accidents are rare. It might also be expected that forestry workers would exert due care when working, whether the public had rights of access or not. However, it should be noted that the forestry industry in New Zealand,has a very poor record of safety standards - with some of the highest death and injury rates amongst workers of any industry in the country, and amongst the worst in the developed world. So my advice would be: wherever you are in forests areas, take care.