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.

Walking New Zealand - - Contents - Cover photo: Walk­ers on the Craggy Range Walk­ing Track.

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)

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