5 February, 2020

The Invercargill to Bluff walking and cycling trail which doubles as the last leg of the Te Araroa Trail, looking towards Bluff Hill, is set to be completed in the first half of 2020.
Photo: John Hawkins

Evan Harding – Southland Times

It’s taken nearly a decade but finally a walking and cycling track from Invercargill to Bluff which doubles as the last leg of New Zealand’s Te Araroa Trail is set to be completed.

The track has been plagued by delays and lack of funding since work began in 2010, leading to frustration and criticism from key players along the way.

Nine kilometres of the track has been completed but the wait to complete the final 17km into Bluff has dragged on.

The Invercargill to Bluff walkway and cycleway, which doubles as the final leg of the Te Araroa Trail, will be completed in 2020 – a decade after work first began. Pictured at the track in 2014 are, at left, Russell Hawkes of Environment Southland who has been the project leader, with Robin Wilson and Andy Carrington. Photo: Environment Southland

However, up to $950,000 funding has been secured for the final 17km leg, with work scheduled to begin in mid-January and be completed by the winter.

Environment Southland lead transport planner Russell Hawkes said there would be no more holdups.

Geoff Chapple, founder of the Te Araroa Trail, is pleased the final leg from Invercargill to Bluff will be completed in 2020. Photo: Supplied

“It has been frustrating and we would obviously have liked to see things happen much quicker,” Hawkes said.

“However, now that the funding is secured and a tender let, the frustration has eased considerably.

“We just need good weather now to complete construction.”

The track, to be built adjacent to State Highway 1, would make life safer for those people using it, he said.

“The biggest advantage of the trail is it will get walkers and cyclists off the road. That’s the primary reason for doing it.”

In 2018 Te Araroa Trail founder Geoff Chapple said the reputation of the length of New Zealand walkway was being damaged because trekkers had to complete the final leg into Bluff along the dangerous state highway.

When told on Friday the track into Bluff would be competed by the winter he was thrilled.

“Fantastic … incredible news, it will be taken off road at last.”

What should have been an enjoyable part of the Te Araroa Trail has been an unpleasant one with vehicles “whistling past” walkers on the state highway, he said.

He praised those people who had stuck with the task and made it happen.

“It makes the [Te Araroa] trail that much more complete.”

About 15 per cent of the 3000km Te Araroa Trail was still on the road, he said.

Invercargill deputy mayor Toni Biddle said the Invercargill to Bluff section was an exciting project and many people had worked hard to see it to completion.

“The trail will be a huge benefit for our region and … it is good to see all the safety concerns have been considered.”

More people walking the Te Araroa Trail were now starting at Bluff, something Biddle hoped would continue.

“I think we should now promote Bluff as the top of our country and where people should start.”

The already completed first 9km of the trail, which starts at Invercargill and stops at Awarua, cost $523,000 and was jointly funded by the Te Araroa Trails Trust [$300,000], ILT Foundation [$30,000], Community Trust Southland [$50,000] and Invercargill City Council and Environment Southland [combined $143,790].

The final 17km of trail into Bluff will cost up to $950,000 – that funding has been secured through the Invercargill City Council NZTA subsidised programme of which the city council and Environment Southland will contribute the “local share” and NZTA the remainder of about $530,000.

“That’s the funding we have approved, we won’t need it all,” Hawkes said.

Credit – Southland Times.
Published 21st December 2019.