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Coromandel Great Walks (2)

Read Coromandel Great Walks (1) first!

The first contradiction lies in Funding under 3 wherein it states that they:

"Have the funding to complete the walkway “Blowhole to Whitianga and that this includes all structures, viewing platforms, fencing and safety measures.”

It then goes on to say that Stage Two from the Blowhole to Hot Water Beach (via Hahei mind!) requires further funding, and that another consultant has been employed to work this through. So far, more consultants than you can shake a stick at, and still nothing to show for it.

The contradiction lies in the statement made to the EDC meeting on 22 April wherein it was stated that:

"Ngati Hei would only continue to support the Great Walks if this later section remains a priority and is completed within a reasonable time.”  

It certainly appears that achieving this condition remains elusive, and may explain Ngati Hei’s absence from recent meetings – a nomal occurance when tangata whenua feel they are being ignored.

Then there is huge confusion over expected numbers of visitors – the Report mentions 17 to 35,000, but the Adams CHR Report suggests otherwise – 200,000, and that is quite a difference. Bill Stead indicates that Hahei will not accept Cathedral Cove and ipso facto Hahei becoming the focal point of tourism on the Coromandel if the full Whitianga to Hot Water Beach track is unachievable for whatever reason.

“Apart from which, the majority of our residents don’t want Hahei to become another Milford Sound with buses of foreign tourists driving into to town, walking to Cathedral Cove/Blowhole, then moving on to the next attraction. Council should be spending ratepayer’s funds on Whitianga, turning it into the next Queenstown where tourists are more likely to stay for a few days.

The Hahei Community is not opposed to the concept of a Great Walk. We just want it done right. Based on TCDC’s history of ill-conceived and executed projects, we are very concerned that the proposed Cathedral Coast Walk is heading down the same track. That is why our newsletter and letters to TCDC challenges many aspects of the project.”

Then (Towler Report):

 “Until this work (the Traffic Management Assessment) is completed, no significant track construction of the Coromandel Great Walks - Cathedral Coast Walk will be undertaken to ensure the concerns raised by the Hahei Stakeholders Group regarding additional parking and management of the increased visitor numbers are addressed by Council, DOC and the "Walks" Governance Directors.”

Towler then goes on to lay out “four stand-alone projects“ that can proceed:

1. Safety signage and planting around the Blowhole                                                           

2. Andlinger/McCanns Bay Cathedral Cove Extension                                                                   

3. Stella Evered track construction (subject to resource consent)                                                

4. Hereheretaura Pa track reconfiguration.

The only problem is that the Lees Road seal will need to be completed if these projects are to be of any value, and in that regard he reports:

“A budget of $1 million was set aside in the 2015- 2025 LTP to extend the seal of Lees Road and construct the car park. Developments since the budget was signed off indicate this figure may be insufficient to complete works, scheduled for 2016/2017. A full re-assessment of the project and Project Identification Document is currently being undertaken and a report will be prepared for Council in November 2015.”

So this is no longer “minor” works – rather substantial, and may well have to be brought forward into the next sealing season (2015/16). Further, it disregards the need for the resource consents for Pa and Lees Road Carparks – those are regarded as major, and remain off the immediate plan.  

Regardless of all the additional chiefs that have been employed, a resource planning consultant has been engaged to complete the Lees Road Park, and Lees Rd. to Cathedral Cove extension application – “a six month task”, and it does not include Pa or Grange Rd carparks. Negotiations to install the 500 car carpark and traverse the Carter property also remain to be completed.

Certainly the evidence points towards far greater readiness to listen to the Hahei concerns than ever before, but there remains a disconnect between the opposing sides as to what can and should be undertaken before commitments are entered into. The traffic studies, and agreements on outcomes are critical if Hahei Residents and Stakeholders are to come on side regardless of their limited ability to influence the Governing Directors (TCDC -2, DoC – 1, and Ngati Hei – 1 vote- Hahei Residents & Stakeholders – Nil (observer only!)

All have agreed to the 45 minute round trip extension to Andlinger/McCanns Bay from Cathedral Cove, but the further extension to Blowhole is strongly resisted, though Health & Safety concerns there will have to be met. The completion of the Stella Evered and Lees Road/Park will remain undone in the meantime, but you almost sense that everyone excepting the Residents & Stakeholders are itching to get on with the complete link.

With all this in mind, the ability to complete milestones required to access the second Lottery Board tranch of $500k remains in doubt. In fact, with its long experience of project failure with the best of intentions the Board will undoubtedly be looking very closely at what has been going on, and possibly questioning assurances that have been given in the past in regard to local support for the project.

The Residents & Stakeholders who have been endeavouring to make the best of a bad job, but are adamant that their concerns will not be side-lined or ignored, and they have the resources to become a real thorn in the side of Leach & Co should they perceive that to be the case.

Finances & Governance -  There appears to have been been a great deal of liberty taken with regard to calculating funding availability at various stages. For example, it is indicated that that the $1m set aside in the 2015/25 LTP for Lees Road sealing will be insufficient – on experience, expect this figure to double as provision needs to be made for walkers walking against the traffic to access the Evered Park track to Purangi. And I amongst many remain totally unconvinced of the ability of the Directors and Executive to come up with a satisfactory means of crossing Purangi – so far just hot air!

Mr Towler assumes that there will be no problems associated with the 2nd Lottery tranch – that may also be debatable, but it does seem that the Trust Waikato grant is now assured.  The problem remains that there are still a huge number of unanswered questions about support for the project, and practical limitations associated with eventually completing the Hot Water Beach link even if they get to Cathedral Cove. John Gaukroger may be a wizard in these matters, but I would wager that he has not previously struck problems of this magnitude in his track-building career.

Then in reregard to governance – another trust/legal entity has been proposed to manage the commercial activities. I trust that this entity will operate with greater acumen that that which has been demonstrated with the Hauraki Rail Trail.

The residents meeting that has been called for 27 November to be chaired by the Residents & Stakeholders that they will chair will certainly leave all the other parties under no illusions in that regard. All have signalled their intention to attend, and they should be well prepared for some strong words of concern.  




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