Al­ter­na­tive rail trail plan

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ABBY BROWN

A two-man band is invit­ing Mata­mata peo­ple to a public meet­ing about the Te Aroha to Mata­mata sec­tion of the Hau­raki Rail Trail.

This meet­ing is be­ing headed by re­tired dairy farmer Derek Lug­ton, who said he was mo­ti­vated to sug­gest changes be­cause he wants the pro­posed trail’s route to in­clude more his­tor­i­cal sites in the route. He is not a cy­clist.

Lug­ton wanted the MatamataPiako Dis­trict Coun­cil to start on the cy­cle­way this Christ­mas to make the most of the ‘‘boom­ing’’ Hob­biton in­stead of start­ing it in 2018, as the coun­cil pro­poses.

If he gets public sup­port Lug­ton said he wants to form a trust that could help the coun­cil find more fund­ing. He is will­ing to con­trib­ute be­tween $5000 and $10,000 of his own money.

He has de­cided to hold the meet­ing af­ter men­tion­ing the idea to his bank manager, Ian John­son. ‘‘I just want to gauge public opin­ion. If [the public] don’t want it then I will let the mat­ter go,’’ Lug­ton said.

He has sub­mit­ted to the coun­cil on the is­sue, which is part of the draft Long Term Plan.

The coun­cil’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions of­fi­cer, Adele Pre­ston, en­cour­aged all res­i­dents to have their say on the draft LTP. Peo­ple can see all the in­for­ma­tion and give their feed­back via the coun­cil web­site or by vis­it­ing any coun­cil of­fice.

Lug­ton said he un­der­stands his pre­ferred route, which would ba­si­cally fol­low Old Te Aroha Rd, would likely dou­ble the coun­cil’s $4 mil­lion pre­ferred route, as there would be more bridges and a chal­leng­ing gra­di­ent.

His pre­ferred route would in­cor­po­rate the Kaimai tun­nel, a me­mo­rial to the DC3 air­plane that crashed in the Kaimais, Wairere Falls and the Crys­tal and Opal Springs. Both Stan­ley Land­ing, where there is a winch that used to bring goods up the river, and the Firth Tower Mu­seum would be show­cased via Lug­ton’s and the coun­cil’s pro­posed routes.

Lug­ton said he had not yet had time to ap­proach peo­ple at those sites to gauge their sup­port. He felt get­ting con­sent to use land from landown­ers could be an is­sue.

He said some cy­clists have said the coun­cil’s pre­ferred route, which would fol­low Stan­ley Rd and then Manawaru Rd and Tower Rd, was sim­i­lar to the Te Aroha to Paeroa and Paeroa to Thames cy­cle­way, which were bor­ing.

Lug­ton said it could be pos­si­ble to com­bine his and the coun­cil’s pro­posed routes.

The public meet­ing will be held at the Mata­mata Me­mo­rial Cen­tre on Thurs­day, April 16 at 7.30pm.

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