Progress in park plans

By Amy Shanks

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The Te Mata Park Trust has just released the final draft of the Te Mata Park Management Plan for community feedback. Trust chairman Bruno Chambers says he's excited about the proposed improvements to the amenity's infrastructure.

1 Was there an overriding sentiment that came through with all the submissions to the Te Mata Park Management Plan?

What came through loud and clear is that the users love the park, and they love it the way it is, so they don't want to see major change. However, there was a loud call for toilets, drinking water and upgraded park entrance and summit areas. This also encompassed improved parking, signage and educational information.

2 Of all the proposed improvements to the park, what excites you the most?

I think that the upgrading of the main gates area and the summit are the most exciting and needed projects.

The main gate development delivers improvements users of the park have been asking for: toilets, drinking water, a new loop track for those with more limited mobility, much improved parking and some great spaces for picnics, concerts or other school or community gatherings, and maybe even a coffee cart.

As the number one tourist destination in the Bay, pressure on the Te Mata Park's summit area has been intensifying, particularly with the steady stream of tour buses and cars. The need for better traffic management and parking has become critical, and improvements to the landscaping and information signage at the Summit are long overdue.

Te Mata Park's infrastructure is lacking and with the increasing usage and popularity of Te Mata, it's important that we pre-empt some of the issues that we are confronted with, and deal with them now.

It will be really rewarding to ensure all visitors to Te Mata Park are inspired, excited and just enjoy themselves, whether they come by foot, bike, car or bus.

3 The possibility of a gondola on Te Mata Peak never seems to vanish from the landscape. Would this venture ever be doable?

I have never favoured this, and it wasn't identified as a priority by park users. Rather, the strongly held view of users was that it was important the park continues to provide a natural and somewhat wild or remote experience. I can't see it ever happening as the District Plan would prevent this and the QE2 covenant over the park would also be a major hurdle.

4 Whenever I walk one of the many tracks of the park, I inevitably get lost. Am I dense, or is the signage earmarked for a makeover?

It's a common problem. We launched the five great walks nearly two years ago and attempted to improve the signage and make it easier for walkers and cyclists in a temporary way. Providing the trust can secure funding support, the plan proposes much improved track signage and a clearer division of tracks between walkers and mountain bikers. Hopefully you will not get lost.

5 How do you balance maintaining the rustic nature of the park with its proposed modern amenities?

The challenge for the Trust is to maintain the open-space wilderness qualities of the park. This involves managing the user impact on the park whilst enhancing the experience for the increasing number of park users.

I think we can do this with careful planning and management. This will involve careful management of tracks and any built structures, and an adoption of a common style within the park for all buildings signage and improvements, which will be of a low-key, rustic and timeless nature.

I am confident we can achieve a great outcome that will inspire visitors, and one that locals will be proud of. Te Mata Park is a fantastic asset for the region and it deserves special attention.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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