Hillary Trail to have a softer option

By Wayne Thompson

A gentle version of the new Hillary Trail on Auckland's rugged west coast is being planned by the Waitakere City Council.

The four-day trek named after great New Zealand adventurer Sir Edmund Hillary is mainly along forest and clifftop trails, but the proposed walk could be done in a day, giving a "pastoral countryside" experience on the eastern side of the Waitakere Ranges.

The 48km foothills walkway will wind from Titirangi village in the south through Oratia and Henderson Valley to the Swanson railway station in the north.

It will give ridgetop views over farmland to the city and harbour.

Most of it will be on public land such as road verges, city and regional park trails and reserves.

The remaining 10km is now only a pencil line on a map as it goes through private property.

" We are not imposing this on landowners," Waitakere Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse said yesterday.

"Everything will be open to discussion and negotiation."

She said the council commissioned a realistic assessment of the project and realised it was a long-term, perhaps 20-year staged work.

She recommended the new Auckland Council take on the project.

"About 40 per cent of the tracks are already there and this planning will ensure we don't miss opportunities created by land subdivision to get crucial links."

Mrs Hulse said the walkway might take the strain off Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, which has half a million visitors a year.

The walkway would attract customers to vineyards, cafes, art galleries, homestays and markets, and would give residents of the foothills safe pedestrian links instead of walking on narrow, winding roads.

Councillors were yesterday given an estimate of $2.2 million for a safe and dry but mostly gravel walkway.

The type of countryside meant it would be difficult and inappropriate to build a 3m-wide trail for walkers, cyclists and horse riders.

Most of the walkway would suit people of average mobility and fitness.

- NZ Herald

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