News: A bil­lion-dol­lar op­por­tu­nity for walk­ers

Walking New Zealand - - Contents -

Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Ric Cul­li­nane says if New Zealan­ders use Bud­get fund­ing wisely it will be a ma­jor step to­wards a com­pre­hen­sive na­tion­wide net­work of tracks.

The Gov­ern­ment plans to spend $1.1 bil­lion to cre­ate 11,000 green jobs in the hope of jump-start­ing “a sus­tain­able re­cov­ery” from the COVID-19 crisis. The pack­age in­cludes:

* $433 million for new jobs in re­gional en­vi­ron­men­tal projects

* $315 million biose­cu­rity, in­clud­ing weed and pest con­trol

* $200 million for the Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion’s Jobs for Na­ture Fund

* $154 million for new jobs en­hanc­ing bio­di­ver­sity on pub­lic and pri­vate land

While none of that spend­ing is for pub­lic ac­cess to the out­doors, much of it will rely on good tracks and trails to suc­ceed. All those people re­mov­ing weeds, clean­ing wa­ter­ways and sav­ing birds will need to walk into the wild to do it.

And, sym­bi­ot­i­cally, New Zealand’s tracks will be bet­ter as a re­sult. Walk­ers, bik­ers, horse rid­ers and other out­door recre­ation­ists will hope­fully have ac­cess to land that has fewer pests, cleaner wa­ter­ways, and more na­tive an­i­mals.

Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion chief ex­ec­u­tive Ric Cul­li­nane says there is a close re­la­tion­ship be­tween many of the people who en­joy our out­doors and those who care for it.

“The people who tramp or moun­tain bike New Zealand’s amaz­ing trails are of­ten the same people who vol­un­teer their time to pro­tect and en­hance our en­vi­ron­ment,” says Cul­li­nane.

The gov­ern­ment has also said that part of its COVID-19 re­cov­ery plan is to in­vest in ‘shov­el­ready’ in­fra­struc­ture projects. The Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion, as well as many lo­cal au­thor­i­ties and other agen­cies, have been work­ing to make sure that that list of shovel-ready projects in­cludes new walk­ways, bike paths and pub­lic ac­cess op­por­tu­ni­ties to the out­doors.

“Build­ing a net­work of trails will stim­u­late the econ­omy for a few years,” says Cul­li­nane. “But af­ter we build them, they will still con­trib­ute to the econ­omy. Good tracks bring vis­i­tors and tourists, they im­prove people’s men­tal and phys­i­cal health, and they build stronger more con­nected com­mu­ni­ties.”

He also notes that build­ing and main­tain tracks is an in­vest­ment in the whole coun­try — north and south, ur­ban and ru­ral, rich and poor — be­cause ev­ery town and dis­trict has tracks.

The Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion Ara Hīkoi Aotearoa will re­ceive an ex­tra $1.8 million for each of the next two years — dou­ble its ex­ist­ing fund­ing of $1.8 million.

This fund­ing in­crease fol­lows an in­de­pen­dent re­view of the Walk­ing Ac­cess Act 2008 which rec­om­mended an in­crease to the Com­mis­sion’s fund­ing. The re­view noted that the Com­mis­sion’s fund­ing, which had not in­creased since it was set up in 2008, was mi­nus­cule. It also found that people in­volved in recre­ation, the pri­mary sec­tor, te ao Māori and lo­cal gov­ern­ment all val­ued the Com­mis­sion’s work.

Cul­li­nane says the re­view showed wide­spread sup­port and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for the Com­mis­sion’s work.

“With­out this ex­tra fund­ing, we would have needed to cut our work along­side com­mu­nity trail build­ing groups, coun­cils and other part­ners. This work in­cludes cre­at­ing, im­prov­ing and pro­mot­ing tracks, trails and other forms of pub­lic ac­cess to the out­doors for walk­ers, cy­clists, horse rid­ers, hunters and an­glers.”

With luck, a well-re­sourced Walk­ing Ac­cess Com­mis­sion can use this na­tion­wide fo­cus on the out­doors to help lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties build a grow­ing net­work of tracks and trails.

By Stephen Day

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.