New Plymouth councillors will today consider a report which recommends scrapping a $6.5 million plan to build a shared hiking and mountain bike trail on the Kaitake Ranges in Te Papakura o Taranaki - Egmont National Park.
Starting at the end of Surrey Hill Road, the Kaitake Trail - first proposed in 2018 - would connect the coastal settlement of Ōakura with Pukeiti Rainforest Gardens, a distance of 12.2km.
The route will in part be made possible by using a bush-covered "paper road" that traverses the boundary of the national park.
Included in the draft long-term plan, it is seen as a crucial part of the proposed Taranaki Traverse and will be jointly funded by Taranaki Regional Council and New Plymouth District Council.
Ngā Mahunga a Tairi hapū - a grouping of two local hapū - originally supported the idea in principle and gifted it the name of an ancestor Te Ara a Ruhihiwerapini(the pathway of Ruhihiwerapini)
But now a report, being considered by the strategy and operations committee says that after three years of planning, council has not been able to resolve issues raised by Ngā Mahunga a Tairi hapū in its cultural impact statement.
The hapū grouping does not want mountain biking in the park, is worried about the effect on kiwi recently translocated onto Kaitake, and did not want the trail promoted as a national or international tourism destination.
Apart from Mahunga a Tairi's issues, submissions from other manawhenua also raised concerns about the loss of 2.1 hectares of native bush, described the use of the "paper road" as essentially a form of land confiscation, and worried about the disturbance of wāhi tapu sites.
The report says there has been no communication with Ngā Mahunga a Tairi hapū since August and the project is essentially stalled.
Its author said it was currently impossible to deliver the project in partnership with Ngā Mahunga a Tairi as desired.
"It is difficult not to conclude that iwi and hapū do not support the Kaitake Trail concept and that they are unwilling to proactively enter into a partnership with council for its construction."
They recommend going back to the drawing board.
Councillors have three options to consider:
- Option 1 - Revoke the resolution to work in partnership with Ngā Mahanga and Ngāti Tairi hapū and proceed to implement the project as per the current scope and concept
- Option 2 - Amend the scope of the project to exclude cycling from the operation of the trail and constrain any future marketing of the trail to residents of Taranaki only
- Option 3 - Cancel the project and return the Taranaki Traverse concept back to the planning stage to be reactivated at a future Long-Term Plan
The report recommends option 3.
Today's meeting will make a recommendation ahead of the report being considered by the full council.