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Feedback supports coastal-trail primary Te Muri access

by | 1 Sep 2015 | Coastal trail, Regional parks | 0 comments

Published by the Mahurangi Magazine 6 November 2015
with light subediting for style and consistency.
Mahurangi Regional Parks

Whole Greater Than the Individual Parks: For entirely historical reasons, 900 hectares of Mahurangi regional parkland is considered three separate parks, which has proved to be an impediment to the joined-up thinking needed to realise the natural potential of this magnificent public estate. map Mahurangi Magazine

Notification of public consultation on the intention to undertake a variation to the Auckland Regional Parks Management Plan to include Te Muri was undertaken in mid-July 2015.

Information about the consultation went live on the Shape Auckland website on 13 July and public notices went in the New Zealand Herald, the North Shore Times and the Rodney Times on 23 July and in the Mahurangi Matters on 5 August.

Key stakeholders were sent an email advising them of the project on 28 July and letters were sent to local residents within a 1 to 1.5-kilometre radius of the park in late July.

The closing date for the consultation was 19 August 2015.

Comments were received from 140 people via emails, of which 88 of these were on a pro-forma that was initiated by the Mahurangi Magazine.

Submissions on behalf of groups were received from:

  • Auckland Tramping Club
  • Department of Conservation
  • Friends of Regional Parks
  • Horse Connections NZ
  • Mahurangi Action Incorporated
  • NZ Horse Network
  • NZ Walking Access Commission
  • West Auckland District Tramping Club

Three members of the Schischka family provided comments on the future of the park.

In addition a petition on Change.Org was organised by Horse Connections NZ and had 1046 signatories.

The following summarises the feedback from the emails, breaking it down into themes.

Park in general

The park’s sense of isolation was mentioned by 94 people with them suggesting this is what made the park special and should be preserved. This was a comment made predominantly by people sending the pro-forma noting:

I greatly value the sense of splendid isolation that Te Muri currently affords and consider a coastal trail a reasonable means by which many more people could enjoy the new regional parkland, without losing this rare and precious quality.

Other comments included:

Te Muri offers a special and increasingly rare opportunity to give Aucklanders the benefits of visiting a beautiful peaceful coastal area that is largely untouched by the intrusions of city life although comparatively close to the city centre.

One of Te Muri’s greatest assets is its ability to make you forget you are anywhere else, and it feels a million miles from Auckland.

Give people the experience and benefits of visiting a pristine beach and coastal zone that retains its natural beauty and tranquility and is suitable for use by people of all ages.

Create Auckland’s equivalent of New Chums (or Wainuiototo) Beach that has been voted one of the Top 20 beaches in the world and listed as one of the 101 Must-Dos for Kiwis.

Connecting Te Muri – the Mahurangi Coastal Trail and Te Araroa

The development of a coastal trail or non-vehicle connection between the parks was supported by 101 submitters. This is the main thrust of Mahurangi Action Inc. and the pro-forma noted:

I believe that a Mahurangi Coastal Trail should be developed immediately as the initial means of providing public access to the new Te Muri parkland, and that access by private vehicle should only be considered in the event the trail is little used.

Mahurangi Action Inc. provided the Mahurangi Coastal Trail, Technical Document for Discussion. This outlines the options for crossing the Pūhoi River and Te Muri Estuary with cost estimates to deliver the bridging options and some of the track developments and upgrades.

Promoting accessibility by public transport was supported by 90 submitters and was included on the prop-forma. One submitter noted it is currently very difficult to access regional parks without a car. He suggested the current bus service to Waiwera could be extended to Wenderholm.

It was also suggested that the coastal trail would be a strategic greenway link.

The potential to utilise the park to provide a section of the Te Araroa was also mentioned by 93 submitters, these were mainly from those using the pro-forma, who proposed use of Hungry Creek Road and the farm road as the missing terrestrial link from Pūhoi to Wenderholm.

Pūhoi Canoes proposed in addition to access from Wenderholm and Mahurangi that access be provided from Pūhoi with: parking at the Pūhoi Village Domain carpark and entering by foot/horseback/bicycle/ to Te Muri by extension of the already formed Te Araroa Trail along the northern side of the Pūhoi River utilising public land between the farmland and Pūhoi River. Their submission details how this connection could be made.

The Department of Conservation’s submission also proposed the possibility of providing walking access between Wenderholm and Pūhoi along the river, noting this would not require a bridge over the Pūhoi River.

Vehicle access to the park

This was a strong theme in the feedback with 79 submissions, related to the pro-forma noting this should not be developed unless the coastal trail is not well used. Of note is that some of the pro-forma submissions had modified this comment stating they did not wish to see any vehicle access provided to the park.

Seventeen people stated no car access should be provided to the park, while 5 specifically stated Hungry Creek Rd should not be used as an access point. Two of these were residents along Hungry Creek Road that noted the road was narrow, windy, unstable and therefore unsafe for a large number of vehicles and that the Mahurangi West turn-off was far better suited to greater volumes of traffic.

Friends of Regional Parks submission also noted vehicles on this road should be limited to park service ones and that the road was unsuitable for public access without significant upgrade to both the road and the SH1 turn off. Further comments included the cost of upgrading the road would be more expensive than providing access through the development of the coastal trail.

Eight people mentioned providing limited access to the park with most suggestions stating this should be kept back from the beach along with parking and only to provide access to walking, cycling and bridle opportunities. It was noted emphasis should be on developing non-vehicular access so visitors have a remote experience.

A member of the Schischka family noted Hungry Creek road has been improved in the last few years and suggested use of a one way system controlled by traffic lights to deal with the blind corners.

Other comments included:

Provide vehicle access only for operational purposes or to get to the baches.

A water taxi service or something similar between Orewa, Waiwera, Wenderholm, TeMuri and Mahurangi West would be fantastic!

Please DO NOT allow car access or large scale car parking in this area – it would spoil the natural beauty of the area and will have a large impact financially and environmentally. Already most of our regional parks are affected by too many visitor numbers and this can take away from their appeal. I no longer visit Wenderholm or Long Bay in the summer months as they are far too busy!

The most important feature of Te Muri is to maintain the beach’s relative isolation. This could be achieved by continuing to restrict access by road. This is a pristine coastal environment remarkably close to Auckland – I would hate to see it become full of cars like so many other beaches in and around Auckland.

Auckland has a significant number of beaches including more than 12 in the 26 Regional Parks, that provide for people who need to, or wish to, access them by private vehicle. The Management Plan for Te Muri is a chance to create a different and special experience for visitors to have greater contact with nature without the intrusion of vehicles.

The idea of giving a special experience for visitors by making access to the park by non motorised means only deserves serious consideration and if there is any ultimate provision for some public vehicle access it we suggest it should be kept well back from the coastal zone and be visually and audibly non-intrusive in the overall park and avoid the use of Hungry Creek Road where it runs down the spine of the park as this would be intrusive right through the park.

Only two people actually requested the provision of vehicle access to the beach or campground.

Mahurangi Action Incorporated

A detailed submission was received from this group with the main thrust of this being the development of a Mahurangi Coast Trail In summary the submission made the following points:

  1. Propose three parks function as one contiguous park and consideration be given to using the title Mahurangi Regional Park.
  2. Retain Te Muri’s sense of isolation by keeping it car free, provide picnic areas adjacent to but screened from the beach. Could include access for vehicles catering for those with disabilities. Reduce obtrusiveness of Peter Schischka’s house; in long term demolish this, but medium term convert for public use such as a visitor centre.
  3. Mahurangi Coastal Trail should be developed immediately as the initial means of providing public access to the park, including the Judge Arnold Turner bridge across the Pūhoi River. They suggest vehicle access should only be provided in the unlikely event the trail is not well used.
  4. Explore options to extend public transport to the parks from the Waiwera terminus.
  5. The proposed Pūhoi-Te Muri section of Te Araroa is of overwhelming local, regional and national significance. Hungry Creek Road and the scenic ridge farm road must be protected from non-essential vehicle use and its panoramas protected.
  6. Remote camping is a proven need at Te Muri and there is considerable scope to both improve the experience by decentralising and expanding the activity.
  7. Propose trialling a group shelter, particularly to encourage use by schools.
  8. Encourage horse-riding to and through the park, rather than as a place to transport horses into. Investigate sites such as Spaniard Creek, as location for charitable-trust-owned stables supplying mounts to park visitors.
  9. Investigate the role indigenous forestry as a working-farm-park model.
  10. Take practical steps to protect the spit and urupa from sea-level rise, with particular emphasis on the dune and back-dune vegetation.
  11. Suggest consulting iwi over establishment of marine reserve off coast of Wenderholm and Te Muri, with the view to a wider exploration of Mahurangi marine reserve concept forming part of this planning process.

Horse riding

The petition signed by 1046 people included the following text:

I am writing in support of including horse riding at the new Te Muri Regional Park. Having this available to horse riders provides a safe and beautiful place to enjoy. Te Muri Regional Park is promised as a farm park with horse riding. Historically this area was connected to Pūhoi, Waiwera, and Warkworth by bridleways and coach routes. Rodney Local Board we ask that you begin implementation of the Rodney Bridleways strategy as part of this park opening. There are many unformed legal roads in the adjacent area that can be used as bridleways, rural roads with berms, and potentially other options will become available through the building of the proposed Pūhoi-warkworth motorway. We want Rodney local board bridleways, and Auckland Council regional greenways planners to work together with walking, horse riding and cycling groups to connect these regional parks with the adjacent hinterland. Create a shared trails system to connect these regional parks to nearby areas will create a great local, regional and tourism asset. Overnight grazing options for horse owners to camp, would make this asset unbeatable for Auckland.

In addition people could make additional comments to support their signature. These predominantly reinforced the need for people to have safe areas to ride, that roads were now too dangerous, that east coast riding opportunities were scarce and that riders did not want to drive long distances to have places to ride. Atui Creek is too far to travel to on regular basis. Comments also included the need to have access to free places and that Woodhill had massively increased its fees.

In addition there were suggestions that the regional park needed to be connected to other areas, reducing the need for parking and that not all could afford horse floats. There were also comments that farmers are no longer allowing access to riders due to occupational safety and health regulations and that large grass verges are becoming non-existent. A number of people commented on the resources that have gone in to support cycling and suggested horse riding should be given more consideration as part of New Zealand’s heritage and that bridle trails were being lost to cycle ways. One suggested Rodney had more horses per capita than any other region and another suggested the development of horse trails would be good for the equine tourism industry. Only a couple specifically mentioned the provision of camping with horses.

In addition to the petition, 123 submitters noted their support for horse riding on the park. NZ Horse Network’s submission fully supported the coastal trail proposal joining the three parks, keeping parking areas as small as possible and using natural surfaces for any trail development to retain the rural amenity. They requested providing for camping with horses through planning for a horse paddock near Sullivans Bay campground, and to allow access to stockyards, paddock and woolshed.

They requested access to beaches for horses and riders to swim. Fencing should include races that can remain open for the majority of the year rather than funnelling all recreational use through paddocks, and therefore creating blockages to recreation (gates, and farming activities). They suggested no unprotected cattle stops, use of lift latch gates or installation of simple mounting blocks at all gates and requested council stop using bike humps. They also suggested the park should be connected to surrounding area via unformed roads and the creation of easements for shared trails.

A member of the Schischka family noted the property is well suited to horse riding, but suggested having at least one horse dedicated track, to avoid conflicts with other users. They suggested a dedicated horse area on the flats, noting pony club camps are an integral part of the pony club system in New Zealand and locations are getting harder to find.

Another Schischka family member noted Te Muri was farmed for many years from the Pūhoi River side of the property and stock were provided access from Wenderholm to Sullivans Bay. She suggests river access from the Pūhoi River be retained by placement of gates at selected points for occasional use, but notes need local knowledge due to soft areas on the mud flats. Parking for horse floats/trucks could be at the Te Muri park entrance near the cattle yards and airstrip, or down on the flats by the sheep shed or any other area on the flats. Hours of use by floats/ trucks could be set to reduce the impact on other park users.

Other comments included:

Great place to hold weekend long treks, possible future events centre and have camping similar to Woodhill. Include accessible float and truck parking facilities and one noted the lack of implementation of the Bridleways Strategy.

Mountain biking

Provision of cycling access to the park and catering for mountain bikes was mentioned by 20 people or organisations.

A submission from the Auckland Mountain Biking Club requested the provision of dedicated mountain biking trails, designed by experienced bike trail builders. These should not necessarily be targeted at first time of beginner riders, but also cater for experienced riders with several loop trails from centrally located car park with options of easier riding grade and/or by-passes for the more challenging obstacles. The desired length of trails is up to 20km in order to generate return trips to the park.

Other comments included:

If bike accessible would be excellent addition to the National Cycleway with access to government funding and install a bike rack at the Wenderholm bus stop.

A couple of people did not support bikes being provided for on the park; noting bikes especially would disturb native birds and that bikers and walkers don’t mix.

A member of the Schischka family noted it would be best to keep horse riding and mountain bikes separate due to the flight nature of some horses. They suggested introducing a rotating day of use system for conflicting activities.

Camping

Nine submitters mentioned camping, mainly supporting the retention of this as a remote experience.

Comments included:

Could increase camping but keep basic. Camping should be tucked into areas to minimise its visibility and the impact of supporting infrastructure. Improve remote camping, by decentralising and expanding the activity. Provide backpack campsites including one accessible for canoeists near creek on north boundary.

One person suggested upgrading and expanding the camping facilities, and a couple suggested providing vehicle access to the campground.

The New Zealand Motor Caravan Association has informally confirmed they would like the plan to provide overnight parking space for self-contained campervans.

Other comments

More native planting was supported by seven submissions with the suggestion areas of farmland be re-vegetated and for walking and cycle trails to be integrated with this. The Department of Conservation noted stock should be excluded from estuarine areas and most erosion prone slopes as a priority. Friends of Regional Parks suggested the enhancement of the existing botanical and bio-diversity of the park and that in the long term exotic forestry areas should be replaced with native plantings. One submitter suggested improving stream quality.

Four submissions specifically mentioned the retention of farming and the opportunity this provided for the public to experience a working farm.

Only three people mentioned the bach potential suggesting the retention of existing buildings for rent or ensuring vehicle access to these and one requested walking access to the Pūhoi bach.

The views were noted by five submissions with suggestions view shafts be identified and protected from vegetation re-growth, particularly from tracks and along the ridgelines to retain the open feeling and sense of spaciousness in the park. The Department of Conservation noted the landscape should be protected from the intrusion of buildings on the ridges or skyline. One suggested a viewing information panel at the highest point could provide additional interest for visitors, however it would be preferable for it to be not visible from the beach area. Another suggested placing benches on the hills so people can enjoy the views.

Dogs were mentioned by three people who requested these still be banned from the beach, noting this would protect the Dotterels. Seven submissions specifically mentioned the protection of the dotterels.

In addition to the submissions specifically supporting the development of bridle trails and mountain bike tracks, a number of submitters also mentioned the development of a track network. Friends of Regional Parks suggested the creation of a loop walking track with combination of existing farm tracks, stock tracks and natural contours, and suggested the provision of multi-day walking and camping activities.

A couple of submissions noted the park should be classified as Class 1 park. Friends of Regional Parks noted this would give priority to nature based recreation activities with large events, organised sport activity, leases and built structures being non-complying activities and suggested one off events including filming, need to be defined and limited to a few each year with a requirement for environment and cultural Impact assessments. Another submitter suggested this classification to minimise the structures, buildings and size of groups using the park. Wenderholm, Mahurangi and Tāwharanui all provide large group facilities with parking etc. There is not a shortage of regional parks, so maybe this could be kept smaller and restricted to small group activities.

Other comments included:

Continue the encouragement of public participation in caring for their Regional Parks and their sense of connection with the parks.

Create a kayaking trail that includes Te Muri as a destination.

Include info on conservation measures and interpretation of historical features; showcase history of Māori and European occupation.

Keep boat launching out.

Would hate to see Te Muri become another Sullivans Bay or Wenderholm.

Suggest hold open day for all submitters to input into plan.

 

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