27 Jan 2020

Transport Agency halts work on Kaikōura coastal path after opposition

11:17 am on 27 January 2020

The Transport Agency has stopped all work on a walking and cycling path along the Kaikōura coast because it was vehemently opposed by local Māori.

A completed section of the shared user pathway that mana whenua opposed, built along Iron Gate.

A completed part of the pathway built along Iron Gate. Photo: RNZ / Meriana Johnsen

The work was being done by North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR), an alliance which includes the Transport Agency, which was established by the government to rebuild the rail and road network after a 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Kaikōura on 14 November 2016.

The halt comes after protest group Protect Our Unique Coastline threatened last year to take drastic measures to stop further construction of the path.

Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura have also been firm in their opposition to the 6m wide walking and cycling path.

"It's simply because there are so many of our wāhi tapu, our wāhi taonga along this coastline and it was almost going to be impossible for those types of sites that are so significant to us to be avoided," Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura kaihautū Korey Gibson said.

The former leader of Protect Our Unique Coastline (POU), Sharon Raynor, has also welcomed the news.

"It's great, it's a positive start and I hope that they will look now at some of their other designing issues they've put forward and road widening."

Alternatives to the current cycleway route were presented to the iwi at the end of last year, but were voted down by the rūnanga, as Gibson said the iwi were unwilling to compromise any longer.

The Māori Council has called on the auditor-general to investigate elements of the Kaikōura highway rebuild project.

Chief executive Matthew Tukaki has raised concerns about the emergency earthquake legislation used to consent the rebuild - which required limited consultation - and the design issues raised by the protest group POU.

But Korey Gibson said the Māori Council never consulted the rūnanga about the investigation.

"I have to say that we are a little bit disappointed when it comes to the Māori Council now becoming involved because we have not yet spoken with them at all, and we need to make sure that other groups - such as POU - are not being confused with those thoughts and beliefs of Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura."

Tukaki said he apologises for the lack of consultation with Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura.

Of the 22km section of cycling and walking path from Clarence to Kaikōura that NCTIR was to complete, only 3km has been finished.

Whale Trail trustee John Forrest, who spear-headed the project to get a scenic walking and cycling path all the way from Picton to Kaikōura, is unhappy NCTIR has given up on it.

"It's a pity that NCTIR having got the consents and initiated the build, pulled out where they are, so that's as is ... but I've got to say I'm disappointed."

When the Whale Trail project was first pitched back in 2016, it was estimated it would bring in millions of dollars in tourism revenue.

Dr Forrest wants a cycleway with a minimal impact on the natural environment, and said it could be as little as 70 centimetres wide.

He's still hopeful they can get the scenic Whale Trail completed in its entirety.

"It's just that we now have to stand up and talk to and find out what the groups within the trail really want and how we can work together with those various groups to make it a reality - so we're still very positive that we can come to a mutually agreed position with any group along the trail."

He hopes that funding from the Provincial Growth Fund will get the Whale Trail over the line.

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