New track could restore access to cut off Ōtaki, Tararua areas

8:20 pm on 3 July 2022

Access could be restored to Ōtaki Forks and Tararua Forest Park areas on the Kāpiti Coast that have been cut off to access since September 2020, with a new walking track planned.

The Ōtaki River at the Ōtaki Forks area, which has been partly cut off since 2020.

The Ōtaki River at the Ōtaki Forks area, which has been partly cut off since late 2020. Photo: Supplied/ Creative Commons - Benhi Dixon

In September 2020 a large slip triggered by heavy rain damaged the Ōtaki Gorge Road.

The slip left part of the road at risk of dropping away, so it was closed to vehicles and walkers, about 12km up from State Highway 1, Kāpiti Coast District Council said.

Then in late 2021 another slip on the road dumped about 3000 cubic metres of debris, this time stretching about 65 metres.

Council access and transport manager Glen O'Connor said staff were still considering ways to restore vehicle access, but there were no quick or cheap fixes, and it was not clear who would pay.

"We know Ōtaki Forks is a treasured natural area of huge value, not just to locals but to the whole of New Zealand, and we understand the frustration at having no vehicle access."

The new walking track would be built over the slips.

"The new path will take walkers over the original slow slip which has stabilised in recent months, and then over the second slip which is covering the road," O'Connor said.

"The new track will require some caution, a reasonable level of fitness and some confidence around heights. Before we open it to the public, we'll make sure it is as safe as possible, and as always given the conditions in the area it could be subject to closure."

The 4km Blue Bluff to the Forks section, when reopened, was expected to be about an hour-long walk.

"We've had specialist track builders do the work and when complete it will be similar terrain to the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track. We expect this work to be complete in July and be well-established by summer," O'Connor said.

Until the new track opens, the Department of Conservation (DOC) has marked a five kilometre walking trail that goes around the slip on private land, taking about two to three hours to walk past the slip, before rejoining the road.

Ōtaki councillor James Cootes said it was good to see access improving, as the area contributes to the local economy.

DOC senior ranger Robert Ashe said the Boielles Summer Campsite would be accessible using the planned walking track, and would open from 1 December.

"Ōtaki Forks normally attracts hundreds of visitors every summer and is popular in winter too.

"It has been missed as a destination in the wider Wellington region and beyond. We look forward to seeing more people come for a visit and to explore this wonderful part of the natural estate."

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