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After a century or more ferrymen to work Sunday

by | 7 Feb 2012 | Coastal trail, Regional parks | 1 comment

Simon James in the Penelope

Reluctance to Pay the Ferryman: Because locals in the late 1800s invariably owned their own harbour craft, typically a Mahurangi punt—exemplified by this Kerry Miller ‍–‍built replica—some begrudged contributing to the ferryman, who carried ‘travellers generally from the North going to Auckland.’ image Miller Family

Once, they were an essential part of the roading infrastructure.

Ferrymen were paid the princely retainer of £15, or more if they were very lucky, to be on hand to transport travellers across the region’s various rivers. Pūhoi River ferryman George Ryan received £20 annually, plus sixpence directly from each passenger, and lived at the river mouth, where he was also a shipbuilder.

When the last Mahurangi Coastal Trail supporters walk took place, about 25 years ago, a barge yacht and an oyster barge were used to ferry folk across the Pūhoi and Te Muri. Today, owners of certificated craft would be exposed to considerable legal risk, should a similar solution be used. However, one oyster farmer made the consummately historically appropriate suggestion of ferrying the walkers across using the various new and restored Mahurangi punts. As the craft are not required to be surveyed, and the ferrymen not paid, all that is required is good boatmanship, buoyancy vests and a calm forecast.

And calm conditions are forecast. The weakening high and weakening easterlies, with the help of another on the way, is likely to be enough to ensure that Cyclone Jasmine, or what is left of her by then, is held well to the north. Although this outlook could change, it is currently hard to picture better prospects for the walkers who will be waiting at the Wenderholm Jetty to be ferried across the Pūhoi, from 10.30‍ ‍am onwards on Sunday.

Although a Mahurangi punt or two will be available at Te Muri Estuary, it is likely many will choose to only have their clothes and picnic lunches ferried for them. Swimming in sun-warmed Te Muri Estuary on an out-going tide is the essence of summer for those who frequent this miniature Wenderholm-without-the-crowds.

While the river flat on the north bank of Te Muri makes an excellent picnic spot, the plan is walk a further 10‍ ‍minutes up the farm track to the Ngārewa Drive road head, from where Sullivans Bay and the Mahurangi Harbour is on display. That way, it is underlined for walkers that, provided the appropriate bridges are commissioned, Waiwera to Mahurangi West is barely more than an hour’s walking time—about the same time the express bus takes from Waiwera to Wellesley Street.

With little planning, to be able to catch a metropolitan bus and a couple of hours later be camped at Te Muri, Sullivans or Mita Bay, would be the epitome of a liveable city. But in the case of Sunday’s Mahurangi Coastal Trail supporters walk, in fairness to the ferrymen, potential participants are urged to register their possible involvement—besides, seats on the 41-seater bus back to Waiwera will be on a first-registered-first-served basis.

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