This article was published in the Ruapehu Bulletin on 14 October 2020.
With a long wait for last week’s Provincial Growth Fund announcement of $4.6 million to add to the previous $2 million government commitment, the local community along with hikers and bikers could be forgiven for being impatient to see the trails open.
But hitting the trails is still some way off, with a number of processes needing to be ticked off before physical works can begin.
The first section of trail is programmed to be completed by December 2021 and the final, complete trail opened by June 2023.
Ruapehu District Council’s economic development manager Warren Furner said they have been working on the project prior to the funding announcement, mainly on preparing contracts for the various stages. He said RDC had debt-funded this work, in anticipation of gaining the funds.
RDC has been tasked with delivering the project on behalf of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).
He said RDC is required to seek competitive tenders for the work and that there are likely to be multiple contracts for different sections of the trails.
The trails advisory group, formed in 2014, has been re-formed as the ‘project steering group’, said Mr Furner, to represent the various interested parties in the project, including local iwi, Ngāti Rangi and Ngāti Uenuku.
“Tangata whenua have given massive support to the project. They’ve stressed how important the trail will be for the community, including providing jobs building the trails and in the future,” said Mr Furner.
The project will need concessions from the Department of Conservation, said Mr Furner, and the process is already under way on these applications. The centreline of the route has been flagged, to allow cultural and ecological assessments to be carried out, as required for concessions applications.
Various consents and permits will also be needed, from the Ruapehu District Council and from Horizons Regional Council.
Mr Furner provided the indicative works programme, (abridged):
- Funding Confirmed, 1 October 2020
- Consenting and Permissions, August 2021
- Trail Set-out, August-October 2020.
- Route Assessment, October 2020 to January 2021 Finalisation of Documents for lodgement February 2021.
- KiwiRail Permissions, October 2020 to February 2021.
- Regional and District Council consents, March-May 2021.
- Concession and Works Approval Process, March-August 2021.
- Procurement and project establishment, October-November 2020.
- Lower Bennett and Punch trail, August-December 2021.
- Campground Loop, October 2021 to February 2022.
- Horopito Link Trail, January-May 2022.
- Blyth to Mangawhero and Bennett and Punch, February-September 2022.
- Chain Shed to Old Blyth, May-September 2022.
- Horopito to Last Spike, May 2021 to November 2022.
- Turoa to Chain Shed, September 2022 to March 2023.
- Storytelling, November 2020 to October 2021.
- Full Trail Opening, June 2023