18 Jun 2018

Paparoa Track: a Great Walk for cyclists, too

From Nine To Noon, 11:47 am on 18 June 2018

The Paparoa Track will be the tenth Great Walk constructed in New Zealand and the first designed to be shared by cyclists and walkers.

The 55-kilometre main traverse will run from the small town of Blackball to the coastal settlement of Punakaiki, famous for its pancake rocks and blowholes.

From this main track, the Pike29 Memorial Track will lead to the site of the former Pike River Mine where 29 men were killed in 2010.

The Paparoa Track is being built by three separate crews – one at the Punakaiki end, one at the Pike River end and one in the alpine area on the top of the Paparoa Range.

Kennedy Warne has been spending time with all three crews and getting a sneak peek at the progress of the track’s construction.

One of the requirements for a shared biking and hiking track is that the gradient is suitable for cyclists.

To achieve this, the construction crews follow a "set-out" person, keeping to grade and creating wide-sweeping corners.

The people of Blackball are embracing the idea of a new tourist attraction that starts and finishes on the outskirts of their town.

The historic mining town (now home to not a single coal miner) plans to offer shuttles, speciality food, accommodation, gear hire and other facilities for the expected influx of visitors.

But the town is not reinventing itself – the Blackballer's motto 'Our future is in our past' reflects its central identity as a historic bastion of workers' rights.

The Blackball Residents Association Trust (including playwright and filmmaker Paul Maunder) are considering starting up West Coast working-class heritage tours.

About 18 kilometres of the track has been built so far, which is about one-third of the total distance, Kennedy says.

“The grades and corners are all designed for smooth cycling and having zoomed down it on my e-bike, it is a beautiful experience, you just feel completely enclosed and encompassed by the forest.”

The Paparoa Track and Pike29 Memorial Track will open in 2019.