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Newest Great Walk, the Paparoa track opened

New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa track opened – an asset for the West Coast PĀNUI PĀPĀHO

New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track, was officially opened in Blackball today by the Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage alongside the family members of the Pike 29 and Ngāti Waewae. Local mayors and MP for the West Coast Hon Damien O’Connor were also in attendance.

“Paparoa National Park and its rare karst landscapes, forests and coast is one of New Zealand’s taonga. The spectacular new track which crosses the Paparoa Range will link to the Pike 29 Memorial Track, still under construction to commemorate the 29 men who lost their lives in the Pike Mine Disaster.

“Together the tracks will create a lasting legacy and a significant new recreational and economic opportunity for the West Coast,” said Eugenie Sage.

The 55km Great Walk is a dual mountain-biking and walking track. Work began under the former government. It has been enabled by a $12 million government investment to build 41 km of new track to join up 14 km of existing track, two new 20 bunk huts (Moonlight Tops and Pororari) and four major suspension bridges.

“New Zealand’s Great Walks are premier tracks that enable thousands of New Zealanders and international visitors to get out into nature. The first season of the Paparoa Track has almost sold out with over 90% of bookings being New Zealanders. This has exceeded expectations for the opening and underlines how much of an asset the West Coast’s natural environment is for the region,” said Eugenie Sage.

“The track route passes through rich beech and podocarp forest and over open tops of alpine scrub and tussock. It provides breath-taking views to the Southern Alps and over the Tasman Sea and passes along a towering sandstone escarpment above the Punakaiki River headwaters before descending to the west off the Paparoa Range.

As well as working closely with the Pike River Families on the track concept, DOC has worked closely with Ngāti Waewae who hold mana whenua for this area.

Over 6,600 bed nights have sold on the track, of a total of just over 8,500 available a year with just over 6,000 (91%) booked by New Zealanders so far.

The Paparoa Track is located north of Greymouth on the South Island’s West Coast and traverses the Paparoa Range from Blackball to Punakaiki over a distance of 55 km.

The Department of Conservation has led the construction of the new Great Walk, working with Westreef, Nelmac, The Natural Construction Company, and Abseil Access. The first walkers and bikers can officially use both ends of the track from 1 December.

Due to a slip earlier this month, the middle section of the track will remain closed until just before Christmas. People who have already booked will be able to make return journeys to either hut until repairs to the middle section of track are able to be made.

Background information

The Paparoa Track has been built in conjunction with the Pike29 Memorial Track, which will be opened once the Pike River Recovery Agency has completed efforts to re-enter the Pike River Mine. Once this occurs, the site will be handed back to DOC, and work will start to build a memorial to tell the story of mine safety in New Zealand and honour the miners who lost their lives in the 2010 Pike River Mine Disaster.

As well as work done by DOC, the Provincial Growth Fund has funded the Greymouth District Council $3.5m to undertake work to widen the Blackball Road, which leads to the track entrance west of Blackball. The road is being widened from single lane to enable the increase in traffic expected as a result of the new Great Walk.

The Council has also received more than $600k from the Tourism Infrastructure Fund to develop new public toilets and a public carpark, alongside work to widen roads and improve drainage which the council have funded in the township.

Details of Construction Companies:

Westreef (Westport)

Built 26km of track from the junction with the Inland Pack Track south.

Up to 16 staff employed full time on the project.

Nelmac (Nelson):

Built 5km of track from Moonlight Tops Hut north. Also building the 11km Pike29 Memorial Track. Up to 10 staff employed full time on the project.

The Natural Construction Company (Westport)

Built two new 20 bunk huts (Moonlight Tops Hut and Pororari Hut)

Up to eight staff employed full time on the project, plus sub-contractors.

Started work on-site Sept 2017, complete May 2018.

Abseil Access Ltd (Wellington)

Built four new suspension bridges between 38m and 50m long.

Built the first three between December 2017 and March 2018, then Waterfall Creek over three weeks during winter this year.

Up to four staff employed full time on the project.

DOC Teams

DOC track construction crew (Greymouth)

Built 8km on the Moonlight Tops and 2.4km on the Inland Pack track.

Up to nine staff employed full time on the project

DOC building team (Hokitika)

Built 12 timber beam bridges and other track infrastructure e.g. barriers.

DOC Engineers

Designed all the bridges and barriers

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