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News from the field - August 2014
'News from the field' provides a roundup of public access topics being worked on the New Zealand Walking Access Commission's regional field advisors. This month, we hear from John Gardiner (Northland and Auckland) and Rod McGregor (Taranaki and Manawatu).
John Gardiner, Northland and Auckland
The most enjoyable part of my role as regional field advisor is being able to visit new places and meet the people involved with these places.
A really good example of this occurred a few weeks ago when I had the good fortune to inspect the Old Waoku Coach Road as part of the Commission's Enhanced Access Fund application. The construction of the Coach Road began in 1896, with the purpose of becoming the main highway north to the Hokianga and beyond.
The road began at the terminus of the railway at the Kaihu Hotel and travelled through the Mataraua Forest to the Taiheke Hotel between Rawene and Kaikohe.Â The construction and maintenance of the road was very difficult, largely due to the high rainfall that occurs on the high plateau â€“ in excess of 2,500mm per annum.
To manage the huge water run-off, Mr Archibald, a Scottish master stonemason from Aberdeen, was engaged to build culverts and flushings. Remarkably, most of these remain in perfect condition to this day and have become one of the walk's chief attractions.
The road was often closed due to slips and the lands on the plateau were so boggy that it would swallow up all available gravel.Â When an alternative road was pushed through the kauri forests of Waipoua to the Hokianga in 1926, the Waoku Coach Road was abandoned.Â It is still available to walk, however, and those who are interested should check out the Department of Conservation website.
I met up with the applicants for the Enhanced Access Fund, the Hanna family, which purchased the Honeymoon Clearing property on the plateau in 1988. At the time it was the last post-war rehabilitation farm remaining. The Hannas are orchardists living just out of Whangarei, but they escape to their hideaway every second weekend or so to enjoy the natural environment, look after their property and maintain the old coach road.Â One cannot help but be impressed with their dedication, tenacity and resourcefulness in caring for the environment and in keeping the road open in such difficult but magnificent country.
The Hannas represent to me the old pioneering spirit and resilience from which this great country of ours was built. Unfortunately that spirit seems to have has dwindled in the last generation or two. However, I have noticed a return of that spirit in more recent times. Increasingly I have come across individuals, families and groups who, in their own way, are giving priority in their lives to restoring and protecting their natural environment. Whether it be getting rid of plant and animal pests, planting riparian strips in native trees, or building and maintaining tracks for the public to enjoy, they all represent something very healthy, progressive and encouraging.
I have a good feeling that this momentum will be the way of the future.
Rod McGregor, Manawatu and Taranaki
If there is a recipe for growing public access then it seems Manawatu and Taranaki are beginning to understand it.
This recipe includes a good mix of rural stewardship over the land combined with a growing civic recognition that access to the outdoors leads to the recreational and health benefits that are an essential element of economic development.
The other major component of this recipe is dedicated and hard-working community groups. A recent case in point is the work of the Pohangina Valley Community Committee, which has been making good progress restoring public access to a historic Pohangina River swimming hole.
The group has received a grant of $5,150 from the Enhanced Access Fund to survey and create an easement providing access across private land to the swimming hole. Through the group's efforts and the generosity of a local landholder, negotiations are now underway to create a track from the village to the river.
Further down the road, Palmerston North City Council is working hard to create an Ashhurst to Palmerston North walkway and cycleway.
The council has reported really good progress since the opening of the 3.2km Stage 1 track between Ashhurst Bridge and Raukawa Road on 30 November 2013. Since the opening, they have had excellent feedback from users about the quality of the track and its location near the Manawatu River where the views of the Ruahine and Tararua Ranges are fantastic.