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'Coromandel Great Walks'

Garry Towler's Report to Council for the 10 September Meeting is a litany of difficulty, and one is left to wonder whether this whole project is simply another example of the Emperor's Clothes. No-one is prepared to tell Leach that it is an unmitigated disaster from go to whoa!.

Forgetting all the other lather in the document, here are the issues as outlined:

  • The Coromandel Great Walks project has made significant progress this calendar year, and experienced its share of problems;
  • The actions of an individual resident of Hahei in December 2013 led to the halting of negotiations with private land owners at the northern end of Hot Water Beach/southern Hahei.
  • As a result it was determined that constructing a track between Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove would not be possible in the short to medium term (2-3 years).
  • In order to progress, it was decided to identify a route from the 'Blowhole' (adjacent to the Millen property south of Hahei) through to Whitianga. "Cathedral Coast Walk"
  • Included in this new scope of work was to advance negotiations with a private land owner on the construction and management of a new car park facility at Lees Rd Hahei. (Carter)
  • Project Manager John Gaukrodger completed route identification through to the Purangi River in July 2014. This section is known as 1B
  • Surveyors and a Quantity Surveyor were engaged to survey the entire route from the blowhole to the Purangi River. This included private land owned by Michelle and Ian Carter. The Carters have provided access over and around their property that will link to the proposed car park.
  • Also included in the survey is a QE11 covenant, this the Stella Evered Memorial Park to which access has been granted. Lawyers representing the Carters and TCDC are currently in discussions on what options are available regarding the ownership and management of the Lees Road car park.
  • The business community of Hahei raised concerns over car parking and the overload the new walks would create. This summer 2014/2015 (if the track is opened) additional car parking will be created at the Hahei waste water treatment plant with access directly on to Pa Road.
  • Frame Group, one of New Zealand's leading structural designers have completed a scope of six platforms and cantilevered structures to be placed at 'wow' points along the walk. The cost of these structures will be approximately $500,000. In addition  geotechnical engineers will be at each structure site in mid-September to confirm loading requirements.
  • Giblin Group, a consultancy who specialise in major project funding have been engaged to write a new application to Lotteries Significant Project Fund. In addition, Giblin are working on a 'Growth Partnership Fund' which links to external local, regional, central, corporate and philanthropic funders.
  • Ngati Hei, as a key partner with economic interests in this section of the project is under way with a report to support the Lotteries Significant Project Application.
  • Ngati Hei are keen to progress the protection of the sensitive dunes at Hot Water Beach, this was part of the original plan. Stage 1C will look at the Hot Water Beach section.
  • At the request of DOC in June 2014, the formation of a Walks Governance Body was delayed to allow DOC time to assess and best approach what is a unique partnership. (TCDC are the facilitators and fundraisers of a project on land it does not own) DOC have now advised that they are keen to enter into a joint management agreement with TCDC and Ngati Hei and for a Governance body such as a Trust to be formed which could well include management of the Cathedral Cove track.

Quite apart from all the tidbits of information about the impossibility of a track between Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove (for 2-3 years!), which I thought was the principal justification for the project in the first place, it is nevertheless claimed that "the project has in effect created three new walk links to Hahei and Cathedral Cove of approximately 14 km - an ideal one day walk" So Hot water Beach will remain the bottle-neck.

I find the whole project costing some $2.5m quite bizarre considering:

  • The length of the walk (at least 5 km) that will take place on formed, metalled roadway (Lee's and Everard Road) with limited views.                                                                 
  • The fact that vehicular traffic on Lees Road in particular will be vastly enhanced with the siting of the  car-park, creating a major safety and dust nuisance for walkers, unless the seal it of course to create a real ambiance!                                               
  • The mind-boggling plan to build six "wow-factor" platforms at a cost of $500,000.                                  
  • The fact that no detail is provided regarding the method and operation of any facility to move passengers across Purangi River - this must surely have crossed the minds of the planners. Perhaps a ferryman will be needed, with a call-bell!

Several observers have commented to me that this whole project reflects a distorted, grandiose vision, and the reluctance of a certain land-owner(s) to co-operate is symptomatic of its futility. These comments should not be interpreted in any way as an attempt to sabotage the applications for Lottery and other funding. It is intended more as a wake-up call to Council to obtain an independent, calm, dispassionate and professional review by an appropriately qualified person who has no vested interest, before it is too late.

It seems to me that none of the people mentioned in the Report fall into that category. If nothing is done, I predict that this project will eventually cost the rate-payers of this District a great deal of money, with little to show for it.

No confidence can be obtained from the progress of any other of Leach's pet projects since he came into office, and that is a worry.  I will attempt a full and fair analysis in this regard in due course - certainly in time for when he puts himself forward for another election, as looks increasingly likely! ("Work to be done" - etc. etc.!)




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