Friday, 07 August 2020

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Construction on next phase of Te Ara o Hei Walk to get underway in next few weeks

Construction is set to recommence on the Te Ara o Hei Walk between Hahei and Ferry Landing, with the next phase expected to be completed and open by September this year.

Thames-Coromandel District Council Area Manager North, Allan Tiplady, says the way had now been cleared for work to begin on a section of the walk from the Stella Evered Memorial Park to the car park at the bottom of the hill on Lees Road, where the walk will connect with an already completed track over private land to Cathedral Cove.

Local residents, the Hahei community, the Department of Conservation, iwi and the private landowner of the car park have all been engaged over a long period of time on the final form of the walk. The design has been completed and tenders have now been received, with the work expected to get underway within the next few weeks.

In terms of the overall Te Ara o Hei Walk, TCDC says the route is essentially complete on the Ferry Landing side, including the construction of a bridge at Flaxmill Bay. Remaining work would include the installation of clear wayfinding signage. However, whether the overall vision of a walking route linking Whitianga with Cathedral Cove will be realised, is likely to require commercial operators to provide a solution to crossing the Purangi Estuary.

“Long term, the walk is intended to link from Ferry Landing to Cathedral Cove/Hahei. This will not occur until a viable crossing of the Purangi is introduced, when demand dictates a need, and is likely to be provided through a commercial concession. This is not considered part of the project at this stage,” Mr Tiplady reported to the Mercury Bay Community Board in a recent update.

While there is still uncertainty over crossing the Purangi and other proposed elements of the walk, including the development of a section from Hahei to the Te Pupuha Blowhole, one strong supporter of the walk is pleased that progress is still being made. “These things never happen as quickly as you would like, but it’s good to see things moving forward. I definitely think there will be an opportunity in the future for a commercial operator at the Purangi, if not full-time then maybe for five or six months of the year,” says Gary Fitzsimons, former chairman of the Mercury Bay Business Association, who was one of the driving forces behind the project.

Mr Fitzsimons says the thinking was always about creating an attraction that would appeal during the shoulder season. “That’s when these walks are particularly popular, not in the height of summer. We clearly have a way to go yet but I’m delighted to hear that this new section will be completed this year, it’s great news,” he says.

The cost to build the section of the walk from the Stella Evered Memorial Park to the Lees Road carpark is $260,000 and, following discussions with iwi, the route will include some features of cultural significance. Full funding has been obtained through a Lotteries grant, however, the money must be spent by September this year.

Pictured: Former Mercury Bay Business Association chairman, Gary Fitzsimons, one of the driving forces behind the Te Ara o Hei Walk, is pleased that work on a new section of the walk between the Stella Evered Memorial Park and the privately owned car park on Lees Road is set to begin in the next few weeks.

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.