Tuesday, 10 December 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Community Board in favour of obtaining detailed Te Ara o Hei Walk report

The Mercury Bay Community Board resolved unanimously at their meeting on Wednesday last week to recommend to Thames-Coromandel District Council that a detailed report be obtained regarding the completion of the Te Ara o Hei Walk from Ferry Landing to Hahei.

Large parts of the walk, most notably from Ferry Landing to the Purangi River and through the Stella Evered Memorial Park, are already in existence.

The development of a walking track from the Stella Evered Memorial Park along Lees Road, or along another route, to an entry point onto private land through which the Department of Conservation’s Cathedral Cove Track can be accessed, requires specific consideration.

Options to cross the Purangi River and an arrangement with the owner of the land providing access to DOC’s Cathedral Cove track also need to be considered.

The walk was some time ago put on hold pending resolution of some of Hahei’s traffic and parking issues.

Gary Fitzsimons, chairman of the Mercury Bay Business Association, wrote to the Community Board towards the end of last month, requesting that consideration be given to completion of the walk. In his letter, Mr Fitzsimons said that the provision of a park-and-ride facility from the Hahei entrance to the start of the Department of Conservation’s Cathedral Cove track has to a large extent resolved Hahei’s traffic and parking issues and that the walk will generate significant benefits for the business owners in Whitianga and the Mercury Bay South area.

Mr Fitzsimons has also suggested that Whitianga be promoted as the starting point of the walk, more specifically the new Whitianga town plaza. “The new [Whitianga] town upgrade looks fantastic and if you put the start of the [Te Ara o Hei] walk at the [Whitianga] town plaza and down the new pathway to The Esplanade past the stunning [new] public artworks, across the ferry and onwards to Hahei, [the walk] would have an exceptional start point,” he wrote.

In their decision, the Mercury Bay Community Board took into account that a new bridge is in the process of being built at Flaxmill Bay and that completion of the walk will not necessarily be ratepayer funded as $500,000 of Lotteries Commission funding to complete the walk are available until September next year. The Lotteries Commission funding was several years ago obtained.

Two Lees Road owners addressed the Community Board in the public forum at Wednesday’s meeting, saying that they are in support of the walk, but safety needs to be a paramount consideration. They expressed the view that Lees Road may have to be upgraded between the Stella Evered Memorial Park and the point where the private land providing access to the Department of Conservation’s Cathedral Cove Track will be entered.

TCDC staff pointed out to the Community Board that a detailed report regarding the walk will only be prepared after consultation with all stakeholders, including DOC, Ngati Hei, the residents of Lees Road and the Hahei community.

The issue of the available Lotteries Commission funding was also raised at the AGM of the Coromandel Coastal Walkways Society early last month. Members of the society are responsible for the upkeep of the walk from Hahei to the Te Pupuha blowhole south of Hahei and are concerned about the possibility of visitors falling into the blowhole. They are of the view that some of the Lotteries Commission funding can be used to make the walk safer and also to provide toilet facilities along the way. The walk was initially to be part of the Te Ara o Hei Walk

The walk from Hahei to the Te Pupuha Blowhole was not included in the Mercury Bay Community Board’s resolution on Wednesday.

Mercury Bay Business Association chairman, Gary Fitzsimmons, is proposing for the Te Ara o Hei walk to officially start at the Whitianga town plaza in order for the new public art in Whitianga - including this sculpture, "Transit of Mercury", by artist Jocelyn Pratt - to be part of the walk.

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