Second concrete step as coastal trail wins Friends
Friends of Regional Parks is strictly a high-level, umbrella group.
It was formed to ensure that the Auckland Regional Parks network survived and flourished under the new unified governance arrangements for the region.
So for Friends of Regional Parks to make a local initiative its flagship project, the first time it has taken such a step since its inauguration in 2010, is a clue as to just how comprehensively the Mahurangi Coastal Trail fits the bill as the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary, legacy project.
But of course the Mahurangi Coastal Trail is not just a local project. For starters, forParksalternative styling of Friends of Regional Parks founding chairman, Bill Burrill, sees particular symbolism in the fact that the proposed Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge will link the first and last 27 of the regional parks purchased during the regional authority/council era.
Even before it was suggested that the 300-metre footbridge be named for her father, daughter of the surviving of the two fathers of the regional parks network, forParks vice-chair Bronwen Turner, emphasised the principle benefit of the coastal trail—it will link three parks: Wenderholm, Te Muri and Mahurangi, which total 900 hectares. Admittedly, the Scotts Landing and Mahurangi Peninsula components of the Mahurangi Regional Park will not be connected by this project, but the trail will build the client base for a future Mahurangi Harbour ferry. Once such a ferry service is available, the Mahurangi Coastal Trail will link Waiwera to the network of trails planned and underway by the take-no-prisoners Matakana Coast Trails Trust.
Meantime, of national significance, the Mahurangi Coastal Trail provides the missing Pūhoi to Wenderholm section of Te Araroa, ‘New Zealand’s trail’. At present the Pūhoi River is the official bypass, but canoeing it is dependent upon a favourable tide state and direction. The purchase of the 407-hectare Schischka farm, in 2010, means that Te Araroa can run along the sublime Te Muri ridgeline, providing unparalleled views, and the ultimate view, it could be argued, of the Wenderholm spit, with Mahurangi Island dwarfed by Maungatauhoro, the Wenderholm bluff.
Coastal trails have ancient, probably primitive, intrinsic human appeal. Indeed, it is theorised that the peopling of entire continents was preceded by progressive coastwise migration. The opportunity to traverse coastlines should, perhaps, be as the (near) universal right to access mountains. Be that as it may, where a coastline in question is wholly in the public domain, to fail to facilitate its traverse is sacrilegious. To most who contemplate it, the Mahurangi Coastal Trail evokes the ‘Of course!’ response. Yet despite the concept being having been suggested repeatedly during the last three decades, the Te Muri concept plan asked for by Auckland Council’s parks, recreation and sport committee will be the first official document to acknowledge the opportunity. The resolution granting that request marked the first concrete step in the trail’s history. Bill Burrill, who received his Queen’s Service Medal for his services to regional and other parks, later commented that the reception the concept received that day was the most enthusiastic he had ever witnessed by a council committee to a public submission. However, just how rigorously the concept is explored during the drafting of the concept plan may well depend upon the strength of public support communicated during the next few months.
On Monday afternoon, Friends of Regional Parks and Mahurangi Action will present a joint pitch to the Rodney Local Board, for the Mahurangi Coastal Trail as the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary, legacy project, and event. The deputation will ask the board for a letter of support, including in principal for the two events on Auckland Anniversary weekend, next January. The first event was suggested by former Mahurangi Cruising Club commodore Hugh Gladwell: That the curtain-raiser be an adjunct to the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance, where the dynamic component of the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge will be demonstrated to an audience intrinsically interested in such things: the rolling-lift span that will allow yachts to proceed up the Pūhoi River, at least as far as State Highway 1, without unstepping their masts. Because, on the Sunday, many of these, typically well-heeled, yachtsmen will be sailing back the Waitemata for the Auckland Anniversary Regatta, they would otherwise not be able to attend the main event; the mountain, or in this case the demonstration footbridge sections, must go to Scotts Landing.
The main event, the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary celebration, was always going to be held at Wenderholm Regional Park, and the possibility that it be held at the southern abutment of the future Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge had recently been floated. Bill Burrill and his Friends of Regional Parks vice-chair, Bronwen Turner, went one better with the elegant proposition that, rather than just a celebration, the event be the ‘people’s fundraiser’. With a substantial sum already pledged at the ‘celebrity fundraiser’, and by mobilising the members of the many ‘friends of’ individual regional parks, and the general public—not least of all the legions of Wenderholm regulars—it is conceivable that the balance required, to ensure the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge is built, would be pledged there and then, on the banks of the Pūhoi.
A letter of support is not a great deal to ask of the Rodney Local Board, but a bigger ask is to come—that all members of the Rodney Local Board attend a celebrity fundraiser, not just to make up the numbers of the hundred supporters digging deep that Sunday afternoon, but to send an unequivocal message to Auckland Council: That the Mahurangi Coastal Trail as the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary, legacy project, and event, has thunderous local support.
It has to be said, the Mahurangi Coastal Trail has won Friends, and is influencing people.