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Anderton: Rail Trail Opening

Hon Jim Anderton

Minister of Agriculture, Minister for Biosecurity, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Forestry
Associate Minister of Health,
Associate Minister for Tertiary Education,
Minister Responsible for Public Trust

Progressive Leader

28 May 2006 Speech

Jim Anderton opens the Rail Trail in Bank Peninsula

Around eleven million years ago, around the time I first entered parliament, there were massive volcanoes here. The hills around us today, such as Mt Herbert, are impressive. But they were only the lower slopes. The volcanoes towered as much as six thousand feet high and 35 kilometres across. They must have dominated a spectacular landscape for millennia before humans were around to see any of it.

Today we continue to enjoy a spectacular natural environment. It's daunting to consider the length and majesty of its history. This walkway passes through this unrivalled landscape, shaped by countless millions of years of evolution since the volcanoes rose here. We are custodians of the land and ecology we inherit. It falls to us to show how we value that legacy. It falls to us to protect it and enhance it where we can; It falls to us enjoy and respect it; aand it falls to us to pass on the treasure to those who will come after us.

This trail is a pathway in more ways than one. It's a pathway through the spectacular scenery we are privileged to enjoy. The walkway weaves across a thousand years of human habitation. It weaves through small communities

The trail is also a pathway to understanding, that our ecology is precious, but it is also fragile. There is rich and diverse wildlife here, especially around our fifth largest lake, Lake Ellesmere.

The lake has long been a source of commerce. Maori fished it before Europeans arrived here and then when Europeans arrived in Christchurch they sold them their catch at fish markets. Europeans started fishing the lake commercially in 1864 - and nearly went too far. There was a time when fishermen could catch 20-kilogram long-finned eels in the lake. (And if you think that's big - you should have seen the ones that got away). The lake is still commercially fished today, under careful permits. The story shows the need to combine better management of our natural environment with our search for an economic benefit. So this trail is also a pathway to enlightenment about the way we use our natural resources.

We have begun to learn to make our way without destroying our precious resources. So we have begun to see the economic value of this lake arising from its potential to showcase our stunning landscape and our clean green New Zealand environment. It will be a new activity for international visitors who are interested in eco-tourism. It will help to emphasise that everything coming from New Zealand comes from a unique and pure environment.

It's becoming more and more important as we compete to add value by being cleaner, greener and more ecologically responsible. But we have to live those values, not just try to create an image of them. So the more we can showcase our assets in a responsible way, the better it is for our wider economy and this trail is a pathway we can walk along towards that goal.

The trail will also be a pathway to healthier lifestyle activities. For all the extra money we spend on the health system, every single study shows the best dollar we can spend is in encouraging more healthy activities: we need more walking and cycling, and this trail will be a great venue. It's particularly appropriate for older users. Most of the trail is flat. It can be walked without carrying a huge pack because there is a broad range of places to stay, eat and relax. A resource such as this can be enjoyed by anyone who is able to enjoy the outdoors. It is free, it is beautiful and it is open year-round.

There are few cities in the world fortunate enough to offer such exciting activities at their backdoor. In coming years it will continue to be developed as a major regional resource. It will be a pathway along which generations to come will walk. They will delight that there was enough foresight shown by the people here today to develop it. And as they walk it will therefore be a pathway, in some ways, back to today and the opening of this trail.

It is my privilege to declare the trail open. And to join with you all in hoping this rich resource is enjoyed by as many New Zealanders and visitors as possible, who want to see the magical beauty of our Canterbury environment.


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