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New Walking Track officially opened

Russell Bay Of Islands

New Walking Track officially opened

In true Maori style, Cape Brett Walkways Ltd officially opened the 16km Rakaumangamanga track this morning, with a powhiri and unveiling of customary carvings to guard the entrance to this splendid walkway.

The Maori people first named Cape Brett peninsula Rakaumangamanga mai Hawaiiki (branch of many tribes). The seven distinctive peaks that mark the peninsula's dragon-like spine are said to represent the seven waka (canoes) from the great migration on which Maori sailed from their mythical homeland of Hawaiiki 1000 years ago.

"The beauty of Rakaumangamanga is stunning," said Thomas Lauterbach, German artist who was at the launch ceremony this morning. "The spectacular seascapes viewed from the forested ridges are breath-taking."

Towards the Cape, walking alongside the dramatic cliff-face, abundant fish and bird life can be seen below and often dolphins and seals will come close to shore.

The launch this morning began with a powhiri (welcome ceremony) for the manuhiri (visitors), including Tourism NZ CEO George Hickton who gathered outside the gates of the Te Rawhiti Marae. As they moved onto the marae, the manuhiri faced te wero (challenge) by a local Maori warrior, dressed traditionally. On behalf of the manuhiri, Mr Hickton picked up the taki (challenge offering) and the party continued onto the marae accompanied by the karanga (call) of a local woman.

After speeches the party walked down the road to the start of the track and the unveiling of two significant carvings crafted locally. The second called 'Aratika' (straight walk), promised to make the path an easy one for those venturing past it.

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The new business enterprise has exclusive access to private walking tracks in this conservation estate, the flora and fauna and will also introduce their clients to the people who have inhabited its ridges, outcrops, shorelines and flanks for a thousand years.

The company is a small enterprise, family owned and run business based in Russell in the Eastern Bay of Islands. There are two air-conditioned mini-coaches and 'Ra Reka', a 7.3 m twin-hulled vessel, providing transport options to and from the walkways.

The principle guides - Richard Witehira, Peter Stuart and Gary Hoosen, all partners in the business have extensive experience operating guided walks in the region. They worked together developing and maintaining the walkways so have a first-hand knowledge of the terrain and conditions and will ensure the walks will be an enjoyable and rewarding experience.

Cape Brett or Rakaumangamanga is one of the most historically significant walkways in New Zealand. When the Crown and Maori landowners formally agreed to protect the Cape Brett Peninsula in perpetuity the company was able to negotiate exclusive access to Rakaumangamanga track with the Maori Trust and the Department of Conservation. This walkway, traversing 16 kms from Oke Bay to Cape Brett, is the jewel in the crown in a selection of walks offered by the company.

Most of their other walks in traverse Department of Conservation lands and are now subject to access fees payable to the company for ongoing maintenance. While freedom walkers are encouraged to walk any of the tracks on offer, the focus of CBWL will be guided walks which may include boat or land transport, food, guides and accommodation. Additionally they are able to meet and greet, transfer and offer local sightseeing.

Cape Brett is a special place, where nature, culture and people come together in a fusion of energetic outdoor activity, awesome scenery, history and storytelling. The walks can take from two hours to two days, over a wide range of terrain and are suitable for folk of all ages so long as they are fit and healthy.

"We'll take care of the spirit and the appetite," promised Peter Stuart as he closed the powhiri with a round of thanks for all those who had been involved in the preparations. **

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