Te Mata Peak track removal 'not a cheap thing to do'

by Eric Frykberg / 04 January, 2018

The Te Mata walking track. Photo: RNZ / Supplied

The winery that built a track on Te Mata Peak has agreed to remove it after iwi pressure, but it might not be easy or cheap to do.

Removing a controversial walking track on Te Mata Peak near Havelock North is technically possible but would be very difficult, according to the man who designed and built it.

The path zig-zags up the steep slope of Te Mata Peak, on the Tukituki River side of the mountain.

Nearby Craggy Range Winery ordered the construction of the track after earlier buying the land around it.

But the winery has now agreed to remove it after coming under pressure from the Hawke's Bay iwi, Ngāti Kahungunu.

The tribe argued the path disfigured a mountain which depicted the reclining figure of an ancestral chief.

But some locals want the track retained, and many have used it, despite the path being officially closed off and bollards placed on an adjacent road to discourage would-be trampers from parking there.

The path was designed and built by a Rotorua mountain biker and trail designer, Jeff Carter.

He said removing it could be done but would be difficult.

"To reinstate the hillside we would work from the top down, taking the dirt that we put on the side of the track and putting it back into the track formation," he said.

"We would then try to put grass back on top."

Mr Carter said it would be very difficult to make the hillside look the way it did before the track was built, and the work would be expensive.

"It is not a cheap thing to do, it would have similar costs to the initial construction ($300,000)."

Jeff Carter said 12 months would be needed for a covered-up track to be grassed over and merge back into its original appearance - the same amount of time for the track itself to merge into the hillside if it was left there untouched.

"If you look at the neighbouring farms, they have got bulldozer tracks that are grassed over and no one thinks twice about it.

"In 12 months time, you probably won't see this track either."

Meanwhile, the track has divided the local community, with two rival petitions competing for signatures.

One petition, by a Maraetotara woman, Anna Archibald, has gathered over 5,200 signatures, and calls for the track to be removed.

The new track has proved popular with locals. About 30 cars were counted parked at the base yesterday. Photo / Peter Fowler

Ms Archibald said the path was approved without involvement from Iwi and the public, and compromised an outstanding natural feature.

A rival petition, organised by a Waimarama woman, Rebecca McNeur, has gathered over 7,600 signatures and wants the path retained.

She argued Craggy Range's actions in building the track were kind and generous and created an amenity that everyone could use.

Hastings District Council said earlier it would seek legal advice on whether removing the track would need resource consent.

Consent was needed to build it in the first place.

It is not clear what message the council got back from its lawyers.

Nor has it been possible to find out if Craggy Range Winery might have a legal claim against the Hastings District Council.

This would compensate the company for huge expenses incurred after the council gave the OK.

Neither the winery, nor the Mayor of Hastings, could be reached for comment yesterday.

Meanwhile, Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst has told councillors in an email that she hopes to have her first meeting on this matter early next week.

It will involve herself, the CEO of Craggy Range Winery, Michael Wilding, the Ngāti Kahungunu leader Ngahiwi Tomoana and the chairman of the Te Mata Park Trust Board Mike Devonshiore.

A local councillor, Malcolm Dixon, expects the meeting will be just an early-stage "cup of tea" which is unlikely to reach a solution.

This article was originally published by RNZ.

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