30 Nov 2019

Paparoa Great Walk, in tribute to Pike River miners, opens

3:03 pm on 30 November 2019

For so long a source of hurt, the Pike River Mine disaster has now produced something positive as the Paparoa Track is officially opened.

No caption

Coasters mark the opening of the Paparoa Track at a ceremony in Blackball. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

The $12 million walk has been built at the request of the families as a tribute to the 29 men who died, and will eventually include a section to the mine's portal.

About 300 mostly West Coast locals showed up to the official opening in Blackball today.

Among them was Bernie Monk who lost his son, Michael, in the disaster.

"We're creating history today, which is going to be remembered forever and ever amen until after we've gone. So you know I'm so proud of the effort that everyone's put in. And I'm so proud that the families have got behind this and made it happen as well."

No caption

Bernie Monk, who lost a son in the Pike River Mine explosion, is among those attending the ceremony to mark the track's opening. Photo: RNZ / Conan Young

Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage reminded those gathered that the Paparoa National Park was almost lost for good.

"I'd like to thank those who campaigned through the 1970s and 80s to protect Paparoa's forest from being logged and transformed into pine forest, and whose advocacy saw the Paparoa National Park established in 1987."

The route, which had been built for walkers and mountain bikers, will open to the public for the first time on Sunday. It will also become part of New Zealand's Great Walks.

Costing $12 million and stretching between Blackball and Punakaiki, it is the first in the country to be designed for mountain bikers and walkers.

Today's opening ceremony in Blackball involved those who helped to make the track happen and included performances from local musicians.

The town was expected to be packed with walkers and cyclists planning to be the first on the track when it opens to the public tomorrow.

A slip near the middle section meant at this stage they would only be able to complete return trips from either end, while repairs were carried out.

It was anticipated to be fully open just before Christmas.

Paparoa National Park.

The Paparoa Track crosses the Paparoa Range. Photo: 123RF / Patrik Stedrak

Get the RNZ app

for ad-free news and current affairs