Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

Plans finalised for Pike River memorial

Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Pike River families have been closely involved in each step of the process. Photo / Getty Images
Environment Minister Nick Smith says the Pike River families have been closely involved in each step of the process. Photo / Getty Images

The route for a new 65-kilometre Great Walk to be created near the Pike River coal mine as a memorial to the 29 miners who died at the site has been finalised.

The Pike29 Memorial Track will go from Blackball to Punakaiki, including part of the existing Croesus Track and the popular Pororari River Track.

It will include a 9km side track to the Pike River Mine, where there will be an information centre at the amenities area and a memorial at the mine portal.

"The new track will be to Great Walk standards, include two new 20-bed huts on the Moonlight Tops and on a ridge between the Pororari and Punakaiki River catchments, and will be open to walkers and mountain bikers," Environment Minister Dr Nick Smith said.

"The Moonlight Tops hut site is particularly stunning, looking across to the Southern Alps to the east and to the Paparoa wilderness to the north.

"A highlight of the Great Walk will be crossing the top of the escarpment, with its expansive and dramatic views across the park."

The Government is aiming to have the track opened in late 2018, and intends to put the track and hut construction up for competitive tender.

"This $10 million project is a huge undertaking and will be the largest new investment in a track since the Department of Conservation was created in 1987," Dr Smith said.

The Pike River miners were killed by large methane explosions in the underground mine in November 2010, and their bodies have not been recovered.

Pike River Families Group Committee spokesman Bernie Monk has said victims' families were very supportive of the memorial, and worked closely with the Government on its development.

The Government will boost the Department of Conservation's budget by $10 million to cover the cost of constructing the walking and biking track.

- NZ Herald

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