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Tourism Operators Support Timber Trail As Next Great Walk

Tourism operators who have benefited from development of the Timber Trail in Pureora Forest Park are keen to see it chosen as one of New Zealand’s new Great Walks currently being considered by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

A shortlist of seven candidates was announced in June, from which one or two will be chosen to be developed as new Great Walks. They will be added to the eight that already exist, and the ninth which is currently being developed. DOC is proposing to add new walks because of capacity issues with the existing great walks.

The Timber Trail is one of four North Island options being considered. It is the only one that is already developed and which would require minimal investment to make it suitable for Great Walk status.

The 84km long Timber Trail runs from Pureora village through Pureora Forest Park to Ongarue, near Taumarunui. The trail opened in 2013 as part of Te Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail.

Over the past 5 years it has proven itself as one of the premier wilderness bike rides, with approximately 8500 riders using it in the year to June 2018. It is a grade 2 and 3 trail, making it suitable for moderately experienced and capable riders.

The trail has already proven itself capable of accommodating both walkers and riders. For the past two years walkers on the Te Araroa Trail, which runs the length of New Zealand have also been using it. In 2017 it was officially included in the Te Araroa route, with approximately 600 walkers walking its length. Sections of the trail are also very popular for short walks. There have been few, if any, issues with dual use.

A number of businesses have developed to support Timber Trail users, and the financial benefits are flowing through to local communities.

Glen Katu is the CEO of Pa Harakeke, a whanau operated business which is based at Pureora and operates accommodation, bike hire and shuttle services for Timber Trail users. “The area is rich in Maori history, and is of particular significance to Rereahu people. We are seeing increasing numbers of walkers frequenting the area due to the abundant bird life that make their home in the ancient podocarps and the trail making it easier to traverse the many hills and streams. The Timber Trail therefore fits perfectly into the NZ Great Walk strategy.”

Bruce Maunsell, part owner of Timber Trail Lodge, which provides accommodation at the halfway point of the trail believes selecting the Timber Trail as a Great Walk is a natural step. “This trail ticks all the boxes. It fits the Tourism New Zealand strategy of regional dispersal, it’s already established, it’s ideally located in the central North Island, and it is a very special experience. It’s also a vitally important opportunity to engage people with conservation”

Paul Goulding, whose business Epic Cycle Adventures is based at Ongarue, agrees, “In a recent Trip Advisor review, one of our clients wrote that the Timber Trail “will be the next Tongariro Crossing”. It has everything going for it- astonishing scenery and native forest, incredible natural and cultural history and the infrastructure to cope with more visitors. Increased numbers will also provide the local community with many opportunities to become involved. Accommodation, meals, guides, drivers, cultural experiences- the possibilities are endless.”

Pureora Forest Park is a 78,000 hectare area of protected forest that includes some of the largest most outstanding tracts of New Zealand podocarp forest. Pureora was the location of anti-logging protests in the 1970s that resulted in the end of native forest logging, and the permanent preservation of the remaining forest. The area is home to a number of endangered bird species including kokako, whio (Blue Duck), kaka, kakariki and North Island robin.

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