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.