New Zealand Day Hike: Talks pave way for a walking track on Te Mata Peak
Looking at Craggy Range from the Craggy Range Winery, before the track was built.
The magnificent 2.4km Craggy Range Walking Track built on the Tukituki River side of Te Mata Peak in Havelock North, Hawkes Bay late last year, has ended up in controversy. Craggy Range Winery purchased the land, obtained Hastings District Council consent for the track, and had a professional trail designer, Jeff Carter of Southstar Tracks, build a zig zag track at a cost of $300,000. Landscape architecture was by Suzanne Turley.
The track aims to cater for all fitness levels, and incorporate a series of bench seats at fantastic viewing spots along the track and also be a new link between the existing various tracks and cycleways in Te Mata Peak Park .
“The walking trail is something that we have wanted to do for some time. We have been inspired by the work of the regional council and the Te Mata Park Trust to create a broad network of paths and tracks” said Michael Wilding, CEO, Craggy Range Winery.
The track has now come under pressure from the Hawkes Bay iwi, Ngati Kahungunu. The tribe argues the track disfigures the mountain.
Most locals want the Craggy Range walking track retained and a petition by Waimarama woman, Rebecca McNeur wanting the track maintained, has gathered over 11,000 signatures, while a petition by Maraetotara woman, Anna Archibald with 5,200 signatures wants the track removed.
“While the track looks a little obvious at this stage in the construction process, we expect the environment to return back to its natural looking state within the coming months. If you look at the Lowe trail 1km up the road on the same Eastern face it looked the same during construction and is now no longer noticeable”, said Jeff Carter.
Constructive talks were held in early January between interested parties involved with the track to understand the background to the issues surrounding Craggy Range’s walking track and explore alternative options for public walking access on the eastern slopes of Te Mata Peak.
“In the week before Christmas, we decided the best resolution to community concerns surrounding the track was to remove it, restore the land and return it to the previous owner. It was an integrity based decision, and we remain committed to that”, says Mike Wilding, CEO of Craggy Range.
“As we said at the time, we never intended to alienate or divide any part of our community by developing the public track and we moved swiftly to close the trail.”
“However, it is clear that there is considerable public support for walking access on the eastern slopes of the Peak and today we have agreed to work together on exploring an alternative that can hopefully satisfy everyone. We are excited at the prospect of working with the others and feel there is the potential to create something truly amazing, so we are absolutely committed to progressing and leading that.” said Mr Wilding.
“This was a good opportunity to discuss the issues involved and move towards a positive way forward, says Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst.
“The aim of this meeting was to get everyone’s views on the table and provide an opportunity to share and understand each other’s perspectives. Those who attended the meeting voiced their enormous respect for Craggy Range and all agreed they have been exemplary throughout this process.”
All parties support and respect Craggy Range’s decision to remove the existing track from Te Mata Peak and are committed to working together to find a long-term solution for people to access the east side of Te Mata Peak.
Ngati Kahungunu Chair, Ngahiwi Tomoana provided comment; “we respect Craggy Range’s decision to remediate the track and we look forward to working collaboratively with them and others to explore the development of walking access on the eastern slopes of the Peak. ”
Rex Graham, Chair of Hawke’s Bay Regional Council said he welcomed the open and honest discussion and was delighted there was an agreement for all parties to work together to come up with an alternative option, to provide public access to the eastern side of the Peak.
Mike Devonshire, Chair of Te Mata Park Trust said “the Craggy Range track should be the catalyst for positive ‘big picture discussions’ to increase connectivity, conservation, and a common vision across Te Mata Peak”.
In the meantime, Craggy Range Winery is developing a remediation plan and will be applying for resource consent to remove the track in February, with works due to commence in autumn 2018.
To remove the existing track would cost around $300,000 and would take 12 months for a covered up track to be grassed over and merge back into its original appearance, said Jeff Carter. (Let’s hope commonsence prevails - Editor)