Trail trustees sign on and board votes to support
This week sees concrete step number three, with step four imminent.
Concrete step one towards the Mahurangi Coastal Trail was last November, when Christine Fletcher’s parks, recreation and sport committee voted for work to proceed on the Te Muri Concept Plan.
The concept plan was also Auckland Council’s first step in determining how best to develop the 407 hectares of farmland bought for $15 million by the Auckland Regional Council, in its last days before regional amalgamation. As it left the meeting, acting parks, sports and recreation manager Mace Ward followed the deputation out and assured its members that the concept plan would be soon underway, that consultation would occur, and that the process should take no longer than a year.
Concrete step two occurred two weeks ago when Friends of Regional Parks voted to make Mahurangi Coastal Trail its flagship project, as Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary, legacy project and event. The importance of having the support of this regional parks umbrella group is impossible to overstate, not least of all because its founding, and current, chairman is Bill Burrill QSM, who has prodigious relevant experience serving three terms as chairman of the Auckland Regional Council parks and heritage committee. That Bill’s father Max gifted 3600 hectares of Great Barrier Island to New Zealanders as parkland is ample indication of the depth of the Burrill’s conservation ethics.
Monday, effectively, saw the next concrete step, when a deputation including FORParks vice chair Bronwen Turner, was left in no doubt that the letter of support requested from the Rodney Local Board, attended by Councillor Penny Webster, would be forthcoming. The actual, concrete letter, dated Friday, includes:
The Rodney Local Board wishes you every success with the initiative and is supportive of the proposal in principle, particularly as it would be a legacy project to acknowledge 50 years of regional parks in the Auckland area, with the first purchased being Wenderholm.
Step number four was achieved Thursday, when six trustees formally consented to serve on the Mahurangi Coastal Trail Trust: Tessa Berger, Bill Burrill, Cimino Cole, Richard Pearson, Bronwen Turner, and Roger Williams. Regular readers of the Mahurangi Magazine will know something of most of those named, but, for clarity, Richard Pearson is chairman of Wellington Electricity and of Envirowaste, however, he is better known internationally, as his (only slightly outdated) Bloomberg Business executive profile attests.
Further, Richard’s Mahurangi West property, Tu Ngutu Villa, unquestionably has the best view of the regional parks coastline that the Mahurangi Coastal Trail will traverse. Because the villa is used for corporate events and photo shoots, it was also the best imaginable venue that organisers of the Mahurangi Coastal Trail celebrity fundraiser dared to hope might be available for it.
The prospect of selling 100 tickets to a finger-food function at $500 each, with any expectation of further pledges for the same amount for 2016 and 2017, will strike many as preposterous, regardless of the line-up of celebrities, local, regional and national. But even before ticket sales commence, the first three are spoken for, two of those by Rodney Local Board members. By the time the keepsake tickets themselves are printed, it is likely that a convincing percentage will already be sold. The cost of printing, what one day will become heirlooms, however, will not come out of the proceeds. While the trust is yet to meet to determine such detail, an important principal established, when the free use of Tu Ngutu Villa was insisted upon by its owner, is that every last cent contributed to the Mahurangi Coastal Trail Trust will be spent of the physical trail, principally the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge. That means that the trust can give contributors a cast-iron assurance that if Auckland Council fails, ultimately, to allow the coastal trail to proceed, all monies will be returned, and all pledges will be cancelled.
Some contributors, however, will be pledging their contributions specifically to be used on building three key demonstration spans of the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge. These will be on display at the Mahurangi Regatta and at the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary celebration the next day a Wenderholm, near what will be the southern abutment of the proposed legacy footbridge. While a single, representative span might have sufficed for a public demonstration, it is the rolling-lift section and those either side of it that will be shown off first, for the crucial purpose of sending an unequivocal message: the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge will not impede reasonable boating access to the Pūhoi River. It will limit navigation to craft of less than about seven metres in beam, but because the concrete State Highway 1 bridge already prevents larger craft from reaching Pūhoi, it would seem unlikely to be a practical imposition on tidal exploration. The scow Jane Gifford, for example, will slip her ample beam through nicely, for those special occasions, such as the official opening of the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge, when she would be star of the show, demonstrating the rolling-lift span in operation. Besides, the siting of the footbridge, well upstream, leaves the area of the estuary that is occasional accessed, and moored in, utterly unaffected.
And, until recently, resource consent costs could chew a long way into a community project’s budget. Now, serendipitously, Auckland Council has recognised this, realising that it is appallingly counterproductive for council charges to drive away private money that might otherwise be forthcoming for projects of clear and obvious public good.
Sometimes, when strong community interest is expressed in regional park development, it is motivated by self-interest. Park administrators can grow to be defensive, understandably, some may conclude, about protecting the interests of regional user from those more selfishly motivated. This is why the adoption of the Mahurangi Coastal Trail by Friends of Regional Parks is so symbolic. The trail will link, three regional parks both to Auckland’s metropolitan bus service, and to Te Araroa. It will result, in all probability, in a new, Wenderholm–Pūhoi section Te Araroa that over time, will introduce more Aucklanders to the national walkway than any other, given the immense popularity of the Wenderholm Regional Park, and its location at the juncture of the metropolitan and the rural. This linkage was clearly of particular importance to the Rodney Local Board in its decision to support the project:
The Rodney Local Board Plan identifies walkways and cycleways as a healthy and safe alternative to vehicles and acknowledges that multi-use trails provide connectivity to towns and villages.
The local board is supportive of your proposal and appreciates that it would link in well with other initiatives such as the Te Araroa trail and the wider walkway/cycleway projects in the Rodney Local Board area.
The next concrete step is the registration of the Mahurangi Coastal Trail Trust, followed within a couple of months, with any luck, by it obtaining tax-exempt, charitable status. Step six is the Te Muri concept plan, arguably due by October, and seven, the Mahurangi Coastal Trail celebrity fundraiser, on 15 November.
But for now, regional supporters of the Mahurangi Coastal Trail can celebrate steps one, two and three with a ‘sunrise breakfast’ toast, in nine days’ time, on Tuesday 31 March, to Judge Arnold Turner CMG and the purchase of Wenderholm Regional Park…
…and to the Rodney Local Board.