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Thames Tracks Meeting

Last evening’s meeting at te GBD Hotel attracted a real cross-section of the Thames population – probably 60-70 souls who fed off the enthusiasm for the development/re-development of the track network behind the town. It was more walking/cycling enthusiasts than I have seen in one room, and that should have been taken advantage of.

There was a real buzz in the room though that clearly indicated that this initiative has real legs. The following comments should be read in that light - hopefully constructive, but not totally lacking my usual critical observation.

Unfortunately, the meeting was high-jacked into discussion of other Community Board policies involving throwing rate-payer money at events, and vague references to the development of Thames town centre – all part of the Visitor Solutions Report recommendations, but not what last evening was supposed to be all about.

I certainly attended the meeting to talk about the former rather than the latter – matters that have crept in to deliberations that appear more designed to achieve exposure for incumbent members leading up to the election rather than to meet any pressing need.

And Ric Balfour – the person who has apparently been employed into a new role of ‘Tracks Co-ordinator,’ appears to have also taken the role of “Events Organiser’ based on last evening’s performance. I have no concern about him, or his tracks role – that appears to be within his experience and background, though I would question just where the funding comes from to make these ad hoc appointments, and the employment procedures adopted to carry them out. Transparency does not appear front and centre.

Back to last evening - we were invited to put all our track suggestions on post-it notes and attach them to maps on each table. What a pity that once again Tararu, which is actually part of Thames, was again completely absent from the elaborate maps that were provided. Whether it is fibre connections, or general footpath maintenance, the Tararu end of town is easy to forget, and staff do not help this by producing maps like those on tables last evening.

Attendees were not given the opportunity to discuss relative track priorities – that would have been instructive and interesting. Nothing was said about the Karaka track that has been the subject of a considerable amount of work by the Thames Mountain Biking Club. I heard on the side that holes laboriously dug by members for bridge piers were mysteriously filled in by some ‘will-o-the-wisp’ mountain man who lives illegally in the bush on DoC land. Hells bells – can’t something be done about that?

What was apparent to me from last evening is that the development of the Thames tracks still attracts DoC ambivalence. They are fundamentally opposed to anything being done of their land that may open them up to health and safety issues, and this was evident by their absence last evening. Until Greg Hampton and his cohort get these issues sorted, and we get DoC on-side and co-operating, then the whole exercise seems futile to me – after all, the tracks are almost exclusively on DoC land. Why did we not have some explanation of this last evening? And again, nothing but Ngati Maru lip-service.

I am heartily sick of talkfests in this town that go nowhere – witness the Town Centre debacle – a total chimera of consultant driven bullshit that simply enabled a complacent Board to bask in the glory of a new dawn – totally unrealistic, and out of place in a community of this magnitude and resources. 

Let us see what emerges from last evening – in the meantime I remain sceptical. There was an opportunity to lead last evening, an opportunity to provide some real options, instigate priorities, and enthuse potential volunteers in regard to getting some movement under way with actual tracks that are badly in need of upgrade, maintenance and planning - it is not just a matter of spending rate-money.

I remain enthusiastic and willing along with a large number of other people in this town to get behind whatever emerges. But please come back to us with real track options that we can get our teeth into, and clear the decks of the bureaucratic hurdles that remain with DoC etc. And not just an "instant gratification" elevated viewing platform that Ric sought last evening to get in "by Christmas" - real ones! 

And forget all that other fluff about events in which most of us have no interest whatsoever – particularly when they involve Leach driven projects like the WW1 tree-planting projects that are soaking up this District's Lottery Board allocations. If you want tracks so do we – just get Mr Balfour busy and ‘on-track.’ Remember that events involve small numbers - we don't have to compete with Whitianga/Whangamata on that score - lasting track infrastructure is the way to go to  involve the greatest number of people as evidenced by last evening's turnout.

Over to you Greg – you clearly now have the resources – just get on with it.





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