Mountain biking hub opened at Waitangi

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The first person to ride in the new park, moments after the ribbon cutting, was seven-year-old Hawaiki Taituha. Waitangi Mountain Bike Park opening. Photo: Peter de Graaf
The first person to ride in the new park, moments after the ribbon cutting, was seven-year-old Hawaiki Taituha. Waitangi Mountain Bike Park opening. Photo: Peter de Graaf

"Thrilled beyond belief" is how Paihia's Tiffany Holland summed up her feelings yesterday during the opening of the Far North's first park for mountain bikers.

Waitangi Mountain Bike Park opened with an initial 20km of trails in the forested hills behind Waitangi.

This summer work will begin on another 25km; by the time the park is finished in 2017 it will boast 75km of trails.

A bike hub at the Bayly Rd entrance so far has parking, portable loos and information panels but will eventually include a cafe, park office and bike rental.

Community group Focus Paihia is behind the project, which was the brainchild of Mrs Holland and her husband Robin.

The bike-mad couple battled bureaucracy for three years then shed "blood, sweat and tears" during a year of construction to get the park off the ground.

Getting permission to build the park was fiendishly complicated because the Crown-owned Waitangi Endowment Forest is administered by DoC and governed by its own Act of Parliament.

It will cost $2 million by the time it is finished but is expected to pump $9.5 million a year into the Bay's economy within 10 years.

An emotional Mrs Holland said some were sceptical when she first mooted the idea four years ago.

"We were told we were dreamers, that we'd never make it happen. But here we are."

She paid tribute to Waitangi Marae chairman Ngati Kawa Taituha, who had shared her vision of bringing the long-divided communities of Paihia and Waitangi together.

With the close involvement of Ngati Rahiri, Ngati Kawa and the Taiamai alliance, the park embodied the principle of Maori and Pakeha working together for the good of all, she said.

Yesterday's formalities began with a dawn blessing of five pou carved by inmates at Ngawha Prison and erected at the park entrance.

Another powhiri was held at 10am after which Bishop Ben Te Haara blessed the park, the pou were unveiled, and 7-year-old Hawaiki Taituha, riding a bright pink bike, was the first to try out the new trails.

Focus Paihia chairman Grant Harnish said the park aimed to be self-sustaining with ongoing maintenance paid for by a $25 a year voluntary membership called "Register to Ride".

He thanked the many organisations which had provided funding, volunteers who had given up thousands of hours of their time, and businesses which had donated everything from the timber prisoners used to make the gates to food for the opening day sausage sizzle and gravel for the carpark.

The new park would boost the Bay economy by lifting demand for food, accommodation and bike hire, especially outside the peak summer season, but it would also improve Northlanders' health.

"Now when my kids come home from school they don't turn on the TV, they ride their bikes. For me that's gold," he said.

So far the trails have been made by Rotorua firm Southstar Trails, who also built New Zealand's top mountain bike park at Whakarewarewa Forest.

This summer two Southstar Trails crews will be joined by a Paihia contracting firm.

- Northern Advocate

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