Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Upkeep of cycleway up to Waikato councils

Maintenance on the existing river paths is already provided for. Photo / Christine Cornege
Maintenance on the existing river paths is already provided for. Photo / Christine Cornege

The Waikato's $20 million Te Awa River Trail will be given back to ratepayers on completion if they commit to spending thousands of dollars a year on maintenance.

The Te Awa River Trail Charitable Trust is seeking financial commitment from Hamilton City, Waipa and Waikato District councils whose boundaries the 70km cycleway runs through, to cover the ongoing maintenance costs before construction starts this October.

Hamilton City Council's operations and activity performance committee will this week consider signing the agreement which would commit it to spending $72,750 in the next two years and $87,000 a year from 2014/15 onwards to maintain the 7.3km of new cycleway that will link in with existing city tracks.

In return, the trust would finance the new Hamilton section at a cost of about $2.4 million before gifting it to the city.

As part of the agreement, the city council would also be committing staff input over the design and construction, as well as being the signatory to the easement agreements to use the properties within its boundaries.

In a report to the committee, staff said the benefits were having a significant recreational asset within the city which would bring more tourists in.

But the council has not set any money aside in its budgets to carry out the maintenance which includes monthly inspections to the concrete cycleway, timber boardwalk and bridges and gardening and would have to make savings to pay for it. Maintenance on existing river paths is already provided for.

The city council this year rejected a $300,000 request for the new cycleway but signalled its support for the project. It has also agreed to complete a path from the Waikato Equestrian Centre along Pukete Rd to Meadowview Lane.

In the next two months, Waikato District will be asked to sign a similar agreement to maintain its 33km stretch of new cycleway despite the council already contributing $900,000 over three years for capital work.

Waipa District will consider formalising an agreement once issues regarding Mighty River Power land are worked out.

Te Awa River Trail Charitable Trust project manager Jennifer Palmer said the councils had all agreed in principle to covering maintenance and she wasn't sure what would happen if the councils declined to sign.

"Luckily we haven't started anything yet so we would then have to go back to the planning stages, but presumably our trust would then become responsible for maintenance or we would look to liaise with landowners.

"We just haven't explored that at all. This is obviously our preference. The indication from council is it's also their preference but there's obviously a process we have to go through."

The entire 70km river trail, running from Ngaruawahia to Karapiro, is expected to be completed by the end of 2015. The more achievable sections are to be built first with the more troubling parts, such as Horotiu and areas with large numbers of landowners or steep banks, being dealt with later.

- NZ Herald

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