December 2020 newsletter: Connecting Franklin - North Waikato

Welcome to the December 2020 update on the Connecting Franklin - North Waikato project. We are still seeking funding to implement the agreed strategy. Meanwhile, on the ground, there is already plenty happening. People and groups are maintaining, enhancing and creating new trails to connect communities to each other and to the Waikato awa.

Funding update

Unfortunately, the Walking Access Commission learned mid-October that the funding application to the Waikato River Authority was not successful. The intention of this funding was to recruit a Programme Manager who would oversee implementation of the strategy. The programme manager would have working alongside local and central government, mana whenua and community groups.
The next step for the Commission is to investigate alternative funding sources. The programme manager role is critical to being able to develop the planned public access and connectivity in the coming years. This investigation is already underway and will continue in 2021.

Awaroa Portage

Work on re-creating the famed Awaroa portage as a local trail has begun. Waiuku township grew around the portage - on the town’s southern fringes you encounter the upper reaches of the Awaroa, which flows southwards to join the mighty Waikato River above Hoods Landing.

This exciting prospect retraces the steps of Ngāti te Ata Tīpuna and other iwi, who would portage their waka between the Waikato River and the southern reaches of Te Manukanuka o Hoturoa - the Manukau Harbour.

Whakaupoko Landcare group is undertaking the preliminary feasibility in partnership with mana whenua, local community and landholders. It is supported by funding from the Waikato River Authority, with technical input from the NZ Walking Access Commission.

Andrew Sinclair, Patumahoe local and community trails advocate enthuses that this route would have been “the original State Highway 1”. Long before Pakeha settler politicians started eying up the Great South Road route from Auckland, the portage was a major trading route connecting through to the Waikato.

When completed, the trail will provide safe walking and cycling connectivity for locals, the Aka-aka school community, and safe off-road adventures for visitors. The work will contribute to the health of the Awaroa catchment, with revegetation and pest control activities planned alongside the trail.

The preliminary work will clarify the main options to reconnect people with this historic cultural landscape. it will also assist with quantifying costs and timeframes for re-establishing the trail.

Helvetia Tuff Ring

Andrew Sinclair features again – along with Judy Donovan and Tom Forch of the newly-formed Franklin Trails Group – in an enhancement to the Pukekohe Five Summits Trail.

A group is forming a small but vital connection that opens up the journey around Adams Road Hill (also known as Helvetia Tuff Ring). This will showcase a significant geological feature of the trail.

There will be more to report in the next newsletter, but already there is pleasing progress towards securing an easement on private land that avoids trail users being “bluffed out” at the top of Adams Road South. It also provides a continuous loop onwards to Pukekohe Hill.

Tuakau clean up and planting day

In September the FAWN trails group organised the Tuakau Cleanup, Planting, Pest Control and Trail Extension event.

The town clean-up as part of the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Campaign (Tuakau won a national award in 2017) for environmental work and partnering.

At this event, 100 locals did work at Alexandra Redoubt Reserve to maintain and extend the trail. This trail is planned to be completed in 2021, as a strategic and cultural link to the Waikato River for the Tuakau community.

The event was a huge success thanks in part to the many groups involved. These included 15 local groups and Waikato District Council. Staff from ANZ and Citycare in both Waikato and Auckland also worked with local volunteers.

Three children on a bank in the Alexander Redoubt Reserve getting ready to plant trees on a track

Getting ready to plant out the reserve

Pukekohe Five Summits Trail

Since formally opening in November 2019, the Pukekohe Five Summits Trail has been widely used by walkers and cyclists alike. The printed trail map, available at the Pukekohe Library and local stores, is on to its third print run. The digital map on our Find My Adventure tool is one of the most popular tracks in the country.

Created by the Pukekohe Tramping Club to celebrate its 50th anniversary, the trail connects Pukekohe Hill, Belmont Rise, Cape Hill, The Rock and Rooseville Park. It offers plenty of options including a 6km, a 10km and a 21km loop.

The main start point is Pukekohe Railway Station, making it an easy trail to get to. The trail offers spectacular views over horticultural land and Pukekohe township.

View Pukekohe Five Summits Trail on Find My Adventure

Te Araroa Trail improvements between Kellyville and Mercer

Waka Kotahi have recently made improvements to a section of Te Araroa trail heading from Kellyville towards Mercer, with a boardwalk and metalled pathway.

For Waka Kotahi, improving this off-road path safety provides a better, more accessible alternative for people who would otherwise walk on the highway shoulder.

Waka Kotahi is considering extending this metalled surface further south, to continue improving this trail connection which more locals could use as well as those walking Te Araroa.

Hīkoi from Tuakau to Les Batkin Reserve beside the Tuakau Bridge

November saw FAWN and local iwi arrange a hīkoi from Tuakau to Les Batkin Reserve beside the Tuakau Bridge. This event took place under a complex, multi-layered traffic management plan arranged by the Waikato Alliance to guide the walkers safely from the last piece of footpath at the top of River Road Tuakau to Les Batkin approximately 1.6km away.

FAWN sees fixing this missing connectivity link as key for cultural and recreational use by mana whenua and Tuakau residents.

Local people are physically close to the Waikato awa, yet kept far from it by the lack of any safe trail to connect people to it.

This is particularly important for cultural and spiritual connections for mana whenua, including 2 large waka ama clubs.

90 attendees joined this hīkoi on a very wet and stormy Sunday. No doubt if the weather had played its part, turnout would have been even higher - clearly demonstrating how important these missing trail links are to our people.

A family of five pose within an image frame reading Tuakau community hīkoi. We're walking the talk

A family posing for a photo on the Tuakau community hīkoi.