Vahry­ous thoughts


In late Novem­ber 2016 I had the op­por­tu­nity to at­tend the Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion (WAC) and NZ Recre­ation As­so­ci­a­tion (NZRA) or­gan­ised ‘ Trail Lead­ers Work­shop’. Auck­land 4WD Club cov­ered my travel cost to Hamil­ton in the in­ter­est of find­ing out what plans are be­ing made to es­tab­lish or ex­tend trails for recre­ation in the north. You’ll prob­a­bly re­alise that this work­shop on trails was not aimed at 4x4 recre­ation, but tar­geted the ar­eas of cycling and walk­ing. The aim of the work­shop was to share strate­gies on how to es­tab­lish new trails and iden­tify how WAC and NZRA could as­sist. Ac­tiv­ity by trail groups is at a high level, with a wide ar­ray of projects, es­pe­cially around cy­cle­ways. The money is a lit­tle eye-wa­ter­ing too, with gov­ern­ment fund­ing for con­struc­tion and main­te­nance. Dur­ing De­cem­ber, the Min­istry of Busi­ness In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment an­nounced the fifth fund­ing round of the Main­tain­ing the Qual­ity of Great Rides Fund, with nine projects to re­ceive fund­ing. These in­cluded the Motu Trails Trust: Motu Trails (Bay of Plenty), $ 29,752 Ruapehu Dis­trict Coun­cil: Moun­tains to Sea (Ruapehu), $ 74,700 and Welling­ton Re­gional Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Agency: Rimu­taka Cy­cle Trail ( Welling­ton Wairarapa), $ 221,000. Since the start of the Main­tain­ing the Qual­ity of the Great Rides Fund in Fe­bru­ary 2014, $ 4.2 mil­lion (out of the to­tal sum of $ 8 mil­lion over four years) has been ap­proved for 46 projects across 19 Great Rides. We’re up against some sig­nif­i­cant bud­gets to build trails. Oh, this work­shop only cov­ered from Taupo to North Cape, so only iden­ti­fied pos­si­bly less than a third of the over­all in­vest­ment in trails. It’s in­ter­est­ing that the word ‘trails’ has been adopted, rather than the past use of ‘tracks’ for walk­ing or ‘cy­cle­ways’ for bi­cy­cles. That high level of ac­tiv­ity by other recre­ation groups alerted me to the de­gree of risk that four wheel­ing is look­ing at for fu­ture use of routes on pub­lic lands. There are peo­ple out there en­thu­si­as­ti­cally re­search­ing and iden­ti­fy­ing pos­si­ble ac­cess op­tions along many of the un­formed le­gal roads (ULR) on the pe­riph­ery of Auck­land es­pe­cially. By us­ing a ULR, it makes cre­at­ing a trail much sim­pler than ne­go­ti­at­ing ac­cess on pri­vate land and with the avail­able fund­ing, even the ex­is­tence of streams, etc, are not too much of a prob­lem to bridge. One group in the Matakana area has even man­aged to cheaply ac­quire a ‘sec­ond hand’ mo­tor­way over-bridge made re­dun­dant by mo­tor­way widen­ing. Many of the bridg­ing projects are how­ever only en­gi­neered for cy­clists, so even if a ULR could also be driven by a 4x4, any cy­cle bridges would ob­struct travel. The Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion was also ac­tive in pro­mot­ing the use of their map­ping sys­tem, which is now quite a valu­able as­set to recre­ation. They’ve op­tions for link­ing to GPS sys­tems and draw­ing on­line and in­di­cated that they’d con­sider a fu­ture ‘work­shop’ to ed­u­cate about what the sys­tem is ca­pa­ble of and how to utilise it. It was in­ter­est­ing to see the par­tic­i­pa­tion of quite a num­ber of lo­cal body em­ploy­ees and the sup­port be­ing pro­vided by some Coun­cils for de­vel­op­ing cy­cle and walk­ing trails. Even some Coun­cils that have not in the past been in­ter­ested in recre­ation use of a ULR… pos­si­bly it’s the ‘ free’ gov­ern­ment fund­ing that has in­flu­enced them? I sus­pect that they’ll still not do much to en­able ve­hi­cle use of other ULR in their re­gions… it would be nice to find that I’m wrong on this! Among the 80 par­tic­i­pants in the work­shop were a few faces fa­mil­iar to me and among them was John Gaukrodger, a now re­tired De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DoC) man­ager who’d had a ma­jor in­flu­ence in en­sur­ing on­go­ing 4x4 ac­cess to both Mara­toto and Pure­ora For­est. John is now work­ing on iden­ti­fy­ing a se­ries of walk­ing trails around the Coro­man­del Penin­sula and sug­gested that if 4WD have ideas of us­ing some of the ex­ist­ing ULR, then we’ll need to start stak­ing our claims by putting in some ef­fort. An­other par­tic­i­pant was from the Ruapehu Dis­trict Coun­cil who’s been a ‘will­ing lis­tener’ over many years and he was able to up­date me on a re­port to be pre­sented the next day to that Coun­cil about pos­si­ble sup­port for a recre­ation ven­ture in Ton­gariro For­est that DoC had ini­ti­ated. It was in­ter­est­ing to find that the re­port was not in favour of di­rect Coun­cil sup­port and that a pos­si­ble risk to 4WD use of the 42 Tra­verse has prob­a­bly been averted for the mean­time. There was some sub­se­quent sup­port by some coun­cilors for in­vest­ment in en­cour­ag­ing Ton­gariro For­est recre­ation use, but that ap­pears to be low on im­me­di­ate bud­get plans. A sum­mary of fac­tors af­fect­ing trail cre­ation was as­sem­bled by the work­shop par­tic­i­pants and one that stood out was the in­con­sis­tency of the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion in their ap­proach, man­age­ment plans and the high staff turnover cre­at­ing prob­lems with agree­ments. Other bar­ri­ers in­cluded Health and Safety fac­tors (in­clud­ing vol­un­teer work­ers), re­source man­age­ment and pos­si­ble arche­ol­ogy costs, fu­ture lim­its on ac­tual trail use (bal­anc­ing the pop­u­lar­ity), the po­lit­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment and the level of recog­ni­tion of the projects. Ob­vi­ously there have been quite a few ‘suc­cesses’ and some tar­gets for achiev­ing suc­cess in­clude get­ting lo­cal Iwi sup­port, show­ing progress of projects, em­bed­ding project plans within Coun­cil ten year plans, hav­ing busi­ness plan­ning and a busi­ness case for a project and putting in place suc­ces­sion plan­ning for peo­ple in­volved. The ma­jor­ity of the trail projects have been lo­cally driven and that’s prob­a­bly where four wheel­ing needs to look in or­der to get projects in place that will im­prove travel op­por­tu­ni­ties. Even the more ru­ral 4WD groups should avoid com­pla­cency and get in­volved if pos­si­ble. Re­la­tion­ship build­ing can as­sist im­mensely when work­ing with other or­gan­i­sa­tions to cre­ate a ‘trail’ for any recre­ation. They’re not mak­ing un­formed le­gal roads any­more, so we need to try to se­cure what’s left.

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