Richard Moore: Tourists will beat a path to our door

By Richard Moore

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During the council election in 2010, I said I would love to see a cycleway stretching from Mount Maunganui to the Papamoa Hills.

My vision was to link our beachside communities of the Mount, Omanu and Papamoa - and everything in between - with a pathway through the dunes that would allow everyone to enjoy the stunning views we have of our Bay's beautiful waters.

Not only that - a cycleway through them would be a fabulous place for old and young to walk, push prams and strollers, jog or ride bikes.

It would also unite our coastal suburbs, as people would be able to take lengthy strolls from Papamoa and enjoy a pizza at Omanu, or go to the Mount's cafes or down to Papamoa's excellent curry houses.

At the moment, we on the coastal strip can stroll or run along the sands - so long as the tide is not fully in - but walking through the sand dunes is frowned upon as unrestrained access can harm the plants that hold the sand hills together.

You can see where unofficial tracks have been formed and a proper metalled pathway would be the dunes' biggest saviour.

And we do need to protect them as they are our number one defence against a tsunami.

So when I heard that the Papamoa Rotary Club wanted to build a 6.5km cycleway through the sand hills, I thought they were absolutely spot on.

The Rotary plan is to have the pathway go from where Logan Ave meets Papamoa Beach Rd and run east to Taylor Reserve.

Rotary Club spokesman Warwick Thorburn said the project was about balancing respect for the environment and allowing people to enjoy a magnificent and unique coastline.

Rotary says the path will follow one of the existing tracks in the dunes and would be about 2m wide.

Personally, I think 3m would be better as that would not only allow people to walk and cyclists to overtake, but it would future-proof what will undoubtedly become a really popular track for locals.

And, if we look at it purely from a costs' perspective, a track 3m wide would allow trucks to carry in materials and reduce construction time and expense.

As I have mentioned before, there is a terrific 19km cycleway near Opotiki that is part of the Motu Trails.

I have ridden along it and it is superb.

Not only do you get great views of the water but the path keeps to the contours of the dunes, making it both natural and interesting.

The use of small-stone metal for the path adds to the feeling of being in nature, rather than an asphalt strip that would be an intrusion.

Down the track, so to speak, a Papamoa dunes cycleway could become part of the national bicycle route and could attract many extra tourists who want to pedal around one of the best-looking parts of the country.

The tourists could bring in money and create jobs in our area. Important cultural and historic features could be highlighted by signs and information boards, making it an educational trip for schoolchildren.

Now there are groups and individuals who are against the plan.

The area's sub-tribe Nga Potiki opposes it, in the main because they say there are bodies buried in the dunes from the wars between Ngai Te Rangi and Te Arawa from Rotorua.

I would have thought works could be done and if sacred sites or bones are found the path could just go around them. That's the beauty of a path, it doesn't just have to be straight!

Also we have a city councillor saying such a path would go "over my dead body".

Needless to say, it was Cr Murray Guy's thoughts - although, Murray, I wouldn't be saying such things as there are nutters out there who may oblige you. Then we'd have to build another few bends in the path to get around where you are buried.

Another councillor, Larry Baldock is reported to have said walking on a path that needed shoes would be a different experience to the pleasure of walking a dog along a path in a beautiful environment and feeling the sand between your toes.

Um, yes, thanks for that.

It is interesting a former Coast Care volunteer and Papamoa resident Ken Masters backed the plan "100 per cent", saying it would help stop kikuyu grass from smothering native plants, essential to restoration of sand dunes.

Let's hope the council gets behind the idea and waives fees for such a community project that will link in beautifully with the new walkways being placed around Papamoa.

richard@richardmoore.comRichard Moore is an award-winning Western Bay journalist.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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