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Pureora Timber Trail 

By golly, all those tree-top protesters from the eighties would be pleased to see what has been happening down at Pureora over the last couple of years. We were provided with privileged access yesterday to the entire Park where John Gaukroger has been hard at work project managing the development of the new 85km Timber Trail cycleway. Access is from either the Pureora or Ongarue ends of the Trail, though Pureora is probably better placed topographically. It can take 2 days to cycle – four to walk. Walking improves one’s ability to appreciate the abundant birdlife. Don’t be confused about the Kokako – over 100 breeding pairs are now extant within a separate section of the park outside the range of the Trail – it needs a separate and dedicated visit. 

What this place offers is the opportunity to observe the amazing indigenous re-growth taking place over the entire 77,000h park, and slow but sure removal of the pines and other exotic species. The contrast with the incredible patches of untouched podocarp (rimu, totara, miro, matai and kahikatea) in particular provides a real insight into the potential for proper management of the resource without recourse to 'locking-up'. There is a stand quite close to the DOC centre where this process is amply demonstrated – a large number of trees of roughly identical age (sequenced from the Taupo explosion 2,000 years ago) and in a senescent state ready to topple in a high wind – all over 50m. The vigour of growth of indigenous species elsewhere in the park where selective harvesting brought forth such an emotional response in the eighties is testament to the danger of caving in to the demands of vociferous, if well intentioned ignorance, whether in regard to forests, or 1080 for that matter. 

The remnants of the timber industry itself will in the future form the icing necessary to attract tourists to the area. Little has been done to date to promote the Trail, let alone these attractions, but the planning is well under way. Whereas the Hauraki Rail Trail is a Cycleway formed around the old rail route, the Timber Trail is based principally on the old 65k Tramway that was used to haul the logs to the many mills that were based around the  park. Supporting infrastructure is emerging with tour operators, guide services and accommodation in the surrounding districts is coming together, with Trail connections being formed organically rather than imposed. It is remarkable to see observe iwi involvement in every aspect of this development – employment, and entrepreneurial opportunities involving both Tuwharetoa and Maniopoto Iwi in particular. There have been considerable access concessions granted by iwi on thrir land to enable the smooth progress of trail, and their continued involvement in every aspect of planning, construction and management is seen as essential to the success of the whole enterprise.

The track itself is an absolute delight – mostly 2 metres wide, compressed pumice with easy grades, and amazing vistas. The track winds through magnificent podocarp stands and regenerating bush with increasing facilities (DOC style toilets and camp-sites) at regular intervals. The trail has kilometre markers over the entire route and over $250,000 has been spent on the information boards – they are probably the highest quality boards I have seen anywhere, and break up the journey with Maori history, forestry and the timber industry information. The show stoppers are without doubt the seven swing bridges – the largest of which is at Maramataha (the old tram terminus) where the bridge is 141m long and 53m high – a spectacular and exciting crossing which is pictured below. Another feature is the historic marvel of engineering known as the Ongarue Spiral that winds through dense podocarp forest.  See a great photo website here, and excellent topographical information and information on this site. And see the website of local company Walkway Solutions Ltd. who were apparently responsible for all but the largest bridge - sometimes the over-used word awesome is inadequate. 


 Blackfern Lodge provides accommodation at Piropiro – a short distance from the 39 marker, and Pureora Forest Park Lodge caters for up to 50 people, and the Pureora Cabins. The website has all the details.  Timber Trail Shuttle operate a van and 14 bike trailer for delivery and pick up at either end of the trail, or in between. Further cabins and camping are being added right now within the Park, but the Trail is within 2.5 hours of Thames and easily negotiated without recourse to commercial facilities that will certainly be necessary as the route becomes better known and accessed by overseas visitors.

It is tempting to draw comparisons with our own trail which is substantially more advanced commercially, though still a long way from completion. But that is not fair – they have totally different landscapes, and features, but I would have to say that as a cyclist, the Timber Trail offers easier riding on the compacted pumice, and by following the old tram tracks it is very easy to negotiate over relatively easy Plateau terrain. It has a totally ‘away from it all’ ambiance that is absent from the Hauraki Trail experience, and the views of the various forest types are spectacular. The historic features are the equal of our Trail’s gold-mining heritage, but it is a totally different experience.  My observation was that the Timber Trail has a sweet and professional finish, and faultless detail for which I believe John Gaukranger can take considerable credit, though he may have overspent a little in certain areas, while in others he appears to have done highly  advantageous deals. His long history in the area has been a huge advantage, and he has not had to deal with the backbiting and unhappiness that we have experienced with the Hauraki Trail. Our walkway proponents would do well to heed his advice - he knows more than anyone in regard to this area, but he is no arse-licker.    

John indicated a cost of some $80,000 a kilometre, which may give some pause to the Peninsula walkway proponents - and apart from the bridging it was almost there for the taking by following the old tram tracks. Our operators could well take a close look at its priorities and how the Hauraki Trail has been developed. The signage alone puts our Trail in the shade, and that is meant to encourage, not criticise. In other words, we should not be resting on our laurels – in particular, believing all the PR hype that has emanated from our Councils.

If you have already experienced the Hauraki Trail, I suggest that you allow a few days, and go and ride or walk the Timber Trail – it provides a benchmark by which I am sure many other trails will be judged.  



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Reader Comments (1)

If you look into the construction of the track and bridges, you will find that a local company, "Walkway Solutions," is responsible for much of the work. How good is that? Go Thames...

June 9, 2013 | Unregistered CommenterRussell

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