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Coromandel Great Walk(s)

It is all very well for our Mayor to grab the spotlight by conjuring up wonderful visions of Coromandel joining the “Great Walks” network with a continuous walk that circumnavigates the Peninsula. The hand-picked Whangamata Manager, and network co-ordinator – Gary Towler attended Wednesday’s meeting to throw a dose of reality into the equation. It was timely indeed, and there was silence from the top table where normally there is much flag waving and enthusiasm for the concept.

Mr Towler, who appears to have a close relationship with the Mayor, made a categorical statement that anything other than short walks joining up major geographical points was out of the question – just too difficult, and too expensive. He gave a pretty clear indication the DoC looked askance at some the plans that has been bruited about over the last few months, and would not take a lead role in their development – strike one! I have had that confirmed to me in no uncertain terms through a source within DoC where the Mayor’s plans are considered a huge joke, if not simply a calculated political ploy. 

Gary Towler pointed out that an audit had revealed that there are already 69km of coastal walks in existence, and that the only possible addition in the near future was likely to be Hot Water Beach to Cook’s Beach, and Pauanui to Hot Water Beach. It appeared from his report that the only substantive Iwi discussions on this had been with Ngati Maru. Talk about ‘red rag to a bull’. Have these guys not heard of Ngati Hei, and their prerogatives in the areas in question – strike two!

Just staying with the Hot Water Beach – Cook’s Beach proposal for a moment – I know from personal contacts that this route will run into major opposition from landowners whose land would have to be traversed for the purpose, but that is just one of the problems that will encountered on this route – strike three!

The upshot of all the difficulties that Gary encountered is that by last December, the concept had been changed from ‘Coromandel Great Walk’ to ‘Coromandel Great Walks’ – neat eh!

In the meantime, it is planned to concentrate on the Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove section as the ‘start point’. Later this yerar or 2014 would see the investigation of possible East Coast - West Coast links. This would inevitably involve substantial DoC co-operation that appears moot at this point. DoC is well aware of the difficulties and costs involved in keeping these ‘cross-spine’ tracks open – not an easy task.

Gary suggests completing some “runs of the board” links (Tairua to Pauanui) to get the ball rolling, no doubt before the election!

It was decided to provide $70k from the break-up of the Hauraki Development Group funding which will provide $98k ‘play’ money for our Council.   But his report indicates the need for substantially greater funding - $294k to complete the Cathedral Cove – Hot Water Beach section for starters. DoC have apparently committed to share the $40k to $50k feasibility and economic impact study costs. All good, but they have clearly signalled that that is as far as they go.

In fact, the upshot of the discussion appeared to be that TCDC is going to go it alone on the study. That may be wise in view of DoC’s reticence. There appears no other immediate source of funding for the actual work, so TCDC may be faced with some major decisions on this when the Report of the Project Team returns to Council in May 2013. It may be that this constitutes a major plank of the District Economic Development Plan, but just what sacrifices will have to made elsewhere in order to fund it remains the big question.

While on the subject - why has the long talked about visitor centre at the Kopu roundabout taken a back seat on the HCD funding break-up? Perhaps it is time for our Thames councillors to take a more pro-active advocating role as Thames appears to remain an afterthought in the grand Ben Day economic scheme of things. 

And finally, Mr Towler may need to re-adjust his thinking that TCDC and DoC would be the “senior” members on the project, with Iwi and all the others presumably “junior”, That kind of thinking will not get him far in the new world of Joint Governance – someone better inform him of the likely outcome of the current Treaty Negotiations’, and just who will have control of most of the land that he hopes to traverse.   




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