The Northland Age

Breakthrou­gh for cycle trail


The owners of five Okaihau farms have provided what the Far North District Council described as a breakthrou­gh for the stalled coast to coast Pou Herenga Tai - Twin Coast Cycle Trail.

They have given the council permission to develop a 10-kilometre section of the trail, which will eventually stretch from Horeke to Opua, on their land.

Some sections of the trail have been completed, but the leg from Okaihau to Horeke has been problemati­c because, unlike much of the route, there was no rail corridor to follow. The council explored building the trail on private land in the Waihou Valley, alongside State Highway 1, and asking cyclists to share unsealed roads with cars, but none of the options were found to be workable.

However, five land owners have now agreed to allow the trail across their land, opening up one of the most scenic legs of the entire route.

Council infrastruc­ture manager David Penny praised the ‘‘ magnanimou­s gesture’’ by community-minded people who could see the trail’s lasting recreation­al and economic benefits.

‘‘Not only have we been able to keep the trail off the road, but we are blessed with a route which passes through some of the loveliest countrysid­e between the two coasts,’’ he said.

The 10-kilometre section will start at Alexsey Lykho’s macadamia orchard on Settlers Way, Okaihau, and end at the Mangatarai­re Farm Trust property, near the junction of Horeke and Mangatarai­re roads, in the Utakura Valley. Work has begun, and is due for completion by next summer.

The council plans to connect Mr Lykho’s orchard and the end of the Okaihau-Kaikohe section with a trail along Settlers Way. It is also talking to the Department of Conservati­on, Project Crimson and Utakura No 7 Incorporat­ion about developing an off-road section from Mangatarai­re Road to Horeke, a route which would take cyclists through pine forest and native bush with rare yellowflow­ering rata.

A 500-metre section of trail will pass through Ron Lewis’ 340-hectare farm on Mangatarai­re Road, while 3.5 kilometres will cross Snow Harrison’s farm on Harrison Road. Mr Harrison said the decision was a ‘‘no-brainer’’.

‘‘We’re all struggling. The cycle trail will bring business into the community,’’ he said.

The trail would follow the scenic Utakura River, offering places for cyclists to picnic and swim.

Another two-kilometre section will pass through Hazel and Neil McMillan’s sheep and beef farm. Mrs McMillan said she had had reservatio­ns at first, but got behind the project as others came on board.

Russian-born Alexsey Lykho, who has lived in Okaihau for five years, said his macadamia orchard already had accommodat­ion for workers, and he could see the potential for business growth. He was considerin­g providing more accommodat­ion for trail users.

Mr Lewis said he already allowed four-wheel-drive and motorbike enthusiast­s to use his farm, as long as they respected it.

‘‘I’d like to think that people in 10 years will say, ‘Those guys did a good thing’,’’ he said.

He was planning to fence off bush to protect seedlings from stock and plant flax to attract tui.

‘‘We want to make this the best cycle trail in the country,’’ he added.

 ?? PICTURE / FNDC ?? ALL GO: Constructi­on of the coast to coast cycle trail on Ron and Linda Lewis’ Okaihau farm has begun.
PICTURE / FNDC ALL GO: Constructi­on of the coast to coast cycle trail on Ron and Linda Lewis’ Okaihau farm has begun.

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