WEEK­END DRIVE

Each sum­mer David Coxon’s 4WD club sup­ports a number of coun­cil and club ac­tiv­i­ties by lead­ing trips and pro­vid­ing seats for mem­bers of the pub­lic.

NZ4WD - - CONTENTS - Story and pho­tos by David Coxon.

I al­ways try to take part in these ac­tiv­i­ties since, as well as sup­port­ing the club in en­hanc­ing our re­la­tion­ship with var­i­ous coun­cils and other agen­cies, I am get­ting the plea­sure of visit­ing ar­eas I don’t of­ten get to, in the com­pany of peo­ple for whom the whole 4WD ex­pe­ri­ence is of­ten an ad­ven­ture.

Bel­mont Hills Sun­set Trip

The Greater Welling­ton Re­gional Coun­cil ran two sun­set trips this year, with about thirty peo­ple on each. The trips were a short ram­ble through the Bel­mont Re­gional Park, which is nor­mally a walk­ers-only park, be­fore head­ing to the Bel­mont trig, hope­fully in time for the ac­tual sun­set.

This year, for the first time, we started at a park­ing area at the north­ern end of the park, with the first sec­tion be­ing a steep but well-main­tained power line track from the main road up to the main ridge. Near the top we joined the walk­ing track that takes an even steeper route up from the car park, and the road faded out to a marked track across grassy pad­docks climb­ing to the aptly-named Boul­der Hill. This is a high point on the ridge that is scat­tered with large boul­ders, mak­ing an in­ter­est­ing fore­ground for the panoramic views across the Hutt Val­ley, and a good place for our first stop and leg stretch.

With ev­ery­one back into the right ve­hi­cles, it was then a short and scenic run with some in­ter­est­ing driv­ing as we fol­lowed the nar­row walk­ing track across the pad­docks to ac­cess a formed road and head through the park.

One of the many old Sec­ond World War am­mu­ni­tion bunkers set into the hills was an op­por­tu­nity for another stop and a quick talk on the his­tory of the bunkers and the chal­lenges of pre­serv­ing at least some of them.

We then fol­lowed formed roads south through the park to con­nect into the Old Coach Road, a now dis­used part of the orig­i­nal Welling­ton Re­gional road net­work. We ex­ited the park for a few hun­dred me­tres be­fore another gate gave us ac­cess to the formed road up to the trig sta­tion at the south­ern high point of the park. With per­fect tim­ing on both oc­ca­sions, we got to the trig just as the sun set, giv­ing us a double score of amaz­ing sun­sets.

By the time we got back to the cars it was al­most dark so, de­spite the en­thu­si­asm

of the driv­ers for a night drive through the park, the return trip to the park­ing area was via the Hutt mo­tor­way.

Te Kopa­hou Re­serve

Te Kopa­hou Re­serve is in the hills above Sin­clair Head on Welling­ton’s South Coast. This very steep and hilly ter­rain has a net­work of good 4WD tracks loop­ing be­tween the hills and the val­leys, with enough chal­lenge to make for in­ter­est­ing driv­ing, and some su­perb views across Welling­ton and out over Cook Strait.

Un­for­tu­nately for us 4WDers, the nar­row tracks with some very long, steep drop-offs in places mean that the area is nor­mally re­stricted to walk­ing use only, and only avail­able to us by very spe­cial ar­range­ment.

There were two trips this year, one for the Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety and on run by the Welling­ton coun­cil, and I was in­volved with the Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety trip. The Botan­i­cal So­ci­ety mem­bers were mainly older peo­ple who ar­rived fully equipped with heavy­duty tramp­ing gear, hik­ing poles and back packs. They were ob­vi­ously very fit and used to walk­ing long dis­tances over rough ter­rain in search of rare plants.

This time, my pas­sen­gers en­joyed the ease of be­ing fer­ried from one rare plant site to another while spot­ting and dis­cussing an amaz­ing va­ri­ety of plants seen on the side of the track. I was soon lost in a maze of Latin plant names. At each of the sites us less botan­i­cal driv­ers had a very pleas­ant break to en­joy the views and the sense of re­mote­ness from the bus­tle of Welling­ton, while the BotSoc mem­bers roamed the hill­sides look­ing for that elu­sive plant.

The day ended with the BotSoc host­ing a very wel­come af­ter­noon tea at a lo­cal café for the driv­ers. It was much ap­pre­ci­ated.

Oron­gorongo Coast

This trip was or­gan­ised by the coun­cil to take mem­bers of the pub­lic over pri­vate farm­land from the Wainuiomata coast to Ocean Beach on the Wairarapa coast. The trip started with a short run from the coast road across some pad­docks with a short, steep climb onto the main farm track lead­ing to the airstrip over­look­ing the Wainuiomata River val­ley. We stopped at the airstrip for ev­ery­one to en­joy the view in clear and not par­tic­u­larly windy con­di­tions.

Mov­ing on we con­tin­ued climb­ing up the ridge, with my pas­sen­gers be­ing amazed by the views and im­pressed at the ease with which the ve­hi­cles were han­dling what seemed to them to be al­most im­pos­si­ble ter­rain.

Af­ter another scenic break at a high point on the ridge, we dropped down the other side of the ridge on some nar­row and steep tracks, of­ten with nearly sheer drop- offs, fi­nally reach­ing the Oron­gorongo River and a well-earned cof­fee break.

Part two of the trip started by cross­ing the Oron­gorongo River, a new ex­pe­ri­ence for some pas­sen­gers, be­fore a scenic but less adrenalin-in­duc­ing run around the coast. We had planned to take a side track that threaded its way through the coastal boul­ders to a seal haul- out, but were thwarted by DOC’s newly in­stalled bol­lards – on a track that could only be ac­cessed through a locked gate on pri­vate prop­erty!

The bol­lards made even less sense given the track is also part of a na­tional cy­cle trail with cy­clists and walk­ers not be­ing stopped by the bol­lards.

Af­ter lunch at the Stony Creek DOC Camp­site the return trip was an easy and fa­mil­iar run, apart from an easy re­cov­ery when one driver tried to give his pas­sen­gers a thrill by go­ing through a wa­ter-filled hole, and got stuck. We took a fi­nal run up the Oron­gorongo Val­ley be­fore af­ter­noon tea, and re­turned down the river bed to end a fun-filled day.

Last month’s sug­ges­tion of a dis­tinct threat to the Coro­man­del’s Mara­toto ve­hi­cle tracks on De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion ( DOC) land be­ing shut down because of Kauri dieback, has sadly proved to be a fact, with that area now closed while DOC un­der­take an in­ves­ti­ga­tion to iden­tify if Kauri Dieback has ar­rived.

I’d as­sume that if it is still un­af­fected then it will stay closed to min­imise po­ten­tial in­fec­tion and if there is al­ready ev­i­dence of Kauri Dieback, then DOC will keep it closed to avoid the risk of pathogen trans­fer elsewhere.

The lat­ter course of ac­tion is prob­a­bly now point­less given that the dis­ease is al­ready wide­spread, in­clud­ing Great Bar­rier Is­land and deep in Auck­land’s Waitakere Ranges where no ve­hi­cles have driven. Re­cent stud­ies by Auck­land Univer­sity sug­gests that other na­tive species are also at risk, in­clud­ing Tanekaha, so this dis­ease may yet have wider im­pacts. At least we’re not be­ing blamed for the rapid spread of the Aus­tralian ‘ Myr­tle Rust’ which can kill Po­hutukawa, Manuka, Kanuka and Rata. By early 2018 it had spread from North­land to Welling­ton.

Dur­ing the past year I was ac­tively in­volved in a project with the Auck­land Four Wheel Drive Club to get an agree­ment with some landown­ers on the Coro­man­del to use some of their land for four-wheel­ing. It took many months of di­a­logue to get their per­mis­sion. With agree­ments or­gan­ised, there have been many hours and leg­work ( lit­er­ally) this sum­mer to iden­tify op­tions for in­creas­ing the avail­able routes for four wheel­ing.

The de­sign of any new tracks and work on ex­ist­ing routes will need to in­cor­po­rate wa­ter management sys­tems to avoid the trans­mis­sion of silt into wa­ter­ways as a part of our agree­ment and ef­forts to make the area as sus­tain­able as pos­si­ble so that we can demon­strate that it can be done!

It has been a real jour­ney of dis­cov­ery, as a part of the area in­volved had once been the site of a min­ing ‘ bat­tery’ with its an­cil­lary ser­vices. As we climbed ridges in the bush, bits of that past his­tory kept re­veal­ing it­self with bit of light gauge rail­way track and oc­ca­sional sleeper, along with a se­ries of trenches and over­grown ‘ benched’ cut­tings that seem to be for paths. One bit of clear ev­i­dence is the rust­ing rem­nant of an iron pipe found high on a ridge and en­twined by tree roots. A sim­i­lar sec­tion of pipe was found some years back about two kilo­me­tres away on the neigh­bour­ing prop­erty and it’s highly likely that both sec­tions were once part of a wa­ter de­liv­ery sys­tem to the bat­tery.

Dur­ing March another dis­cov­ery was made of an ar­ray of ‘stam­per’ com­po­nents that may even­tu­ally be ex­tracted from their present lo­ca­tion and re­united with the con­crete rem­nants of the bat­tery foun­da­tions as part of the ‘story’ of the area.

It will take quite a while to ex­plore, iden­tify and even­tu­ally clear a va­ri­ety of prac­ti­cal ve­hi­cle routes on these pri­vate prop­er­ties and es­sen­tial that the lands are re­spected by ev­ery­one as pri­vate prop­erty. There’s no doubt that it will be tempt­ing for some peo­ple to want to play on this land, now that there is no pub­lic land on the Coro­man­del to drive on. To min­imise in­cur­sions some gates have been erected that the club hope will be re­spected, as it has been made clear by the landown­ers that unau­tho­rised ac­cess will jeop­ar­dise the agree­ment.

I have to con­fess that the process of ac­tu­ally de­cid­ing where a new 4WD route will go across our crum­pled to­pog­ra­phy on the edges of the Coro­man­del Ranges is a def­i­nite chal­lenge. We now have huge re­spect for early road builders and sur­vey­ors who man­aged to de­fine routes across such rough ter­rain. The books all talk of us­ing sight-lines and in­cli­nome­ters to eval­u­ate gra­di­ents, they just for­get that in our dense re­gen­er­at­ing bush that sight may only be a few me­tres!

There is a strong temp­ta­tion to use the short­est dis­tance from A to B because of the costs of ma­chin­ery and peo­ple’s time, when the best an­swer would be to work towards a longer route with less gra­di­ent ( easier main­te­nance) and more turns to add va­ri­ety to the jour­ney. Craft­ing new routes is go­ing to be a jour­ney in it­self and take time, so there may be few more re­ports in fu­ture on how we’re go­ing.

A brief­ing on the rare plants on the side of one of the tracks in Te Kopa­hou Re­serve.

Af­ter­noon tea on the Oron­gorongo River.

Fol­low­ing the walk­ing tracks across the top of the Bel­mont Re­gional Park.

En­joy­ing the view over the south coast and Welling­ton Heads from the Oron­gorongo Hills.

Signs of ear­lier land use in the new Coro­man­del block.

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