Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Hillary Trail missing out in World Cup boom, says Harvey

Te Henga Walkway, also known as the Hillary Trail, runs from Muriwai to Te Henga (Bethells). Photo / Natalie Slade
Te Henga Walkway, also known as the Hillary Trail, runs from Muriwai to Te Henga (Bethells). Photo / Natalie Slade

Auckland is missing out on economic benefits from a "magnificent but locked up" wilderness attraction, says former Waitakere Mayor Bob Harvey.

He said the Hillary Trail coastal walkway in the Waitakere Ranges should be one of the country's grand international walking trails.

It was associated with Sir Edmund Hillary, and was opened in January last year on the second anniversary of the New Zealand adventurer's death.

"A great opportunity has been lost with the Rugby World Cup by not advertising and marketing sections of the trail and showing its beauty and astonishing vistas over the Tasman Sea," said Mr Harvey.

He urged the Waitakere Local Board and the Auckland Council to ensure a marketing and strategic plan for the track's future and the setting up of a booking service on web and travel sites.

He also said a "Friends of the Hillary Trail" trust could be formed to pay for considerable work needed to upgrade more difficult parts of the 77km track.

A reprint of his book Rolling Thunder - the History of Karekare would include 20 pages on the Hillary Trail.

In 2009, Mr Harvey thought up the concept of a well-promoted trail - creating jobs for guides and demand for the use of guest houses and surf clubs at sections of the trail.

The idea found favour with local Maori, the Prime Ministers Helen Clark and John Key and Air New Zealand.

The former Auckland Regional Council also saw merit in the concept and worked to bring it into being, marking it in the Hillary branding and holding a well publicised launch.

However, Mr Harvey said, the huge potential of the concept was locked up in regulations banning commercial concessions, because of a "small group opposed to intruders in the ranges".

Auckland Council parks forum chairwoman Sandra Coney said submissions to the 2010 parks management plan were heavily against "commercialisation of a wilderness experience" and making it an easy walk.

"It's always going to be a tough track and anybody who thinks 65-year-olds from America are going to be able to step off the plane and do the track are dreaming.

"Bags and wine being carried for them and the dinner cooked goes against the Kiwi ethos of roughing it and feeling you have achieved something."

Regional Parks manager Mace Ward said use of the trail had doubled in a year based on 963 bookings for the camp sites.

"But thousands of others are dipping into parts of it at a time to fit their busy lifestyles."

An exception was made for concessions to groups of people under 25 to use the trail as part of formal education, and programmes such as the Sir Edmund Hillary Award.

- NZ Herald

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