Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Sit-down protest halts digger

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On the spur of the moment, Blomfield St resident Hilary Quemby sat down with her dog and her bike in front of a digger to stop workers building a track through her little piece of paradise.

Ms Quemby said she had never done anything like it in her life, but after seeing workers building a track alongside the Mangakakahi Stream yesterday she felt she had to get some answers.

"I was totally shocked, this is my haven.

"There aren't many places by streams in Rotorua that are just purely natural and to put a big strip of tarmac through it just doesn't make sense."

Rotorua District Council parks and recreation manager Garry Page said the track was the last stretch of a dual-use pedestrian and cycle trail from Goldie St to Pukehangi Rd.

"When completed it will provide a continuous link from Pukehangi Rd, through Linton Park, and into the city," he said. Ms Quemby said the small park off Blomfield St was also a haven for dog walkers and was looked after by locals who came and mowed the grass, planted wildflowers and collected rubbish.

"Now they have built it, I'm sure they won't look after it," she said.

"They haven't looked after it in the past. Every time they do some work here it looks okay for a few months then all the blackberry and gorse grows back.

"Few people know about this part of the park. The rest of it has graffiti all over the trees. I don't know how many people in Pukehangi would use this to get to work, but maybe I'm wrong.

"I don't know if you can call this progress."

She said it was the first she had heard of the new trail in to the city.

However, Mr Page said the council had built new cycle trails through parts of the city in response to a growing number of requests from people during consultation on the council's previous long-term and annual plans.

"As a result of community demand we have developed a comprehensive cycling strategy for Rotorua.

"The aim is to not only make our reserves more accessible to the public, but to improve opportunities for people to commute on foot and by bike, and to increase safety by reducing the number of places where cyclists have to compete with busy traffic."

Mr Page said cyclists and pedestrians could co-exist on these pathways with very few problems.

"The pathways encourage people to participate in healthy physical activity, to enjoy Rotorua's great outdoors, and they also add vitality and life to our reserves."

He said the final section of the pathway cost around $13,000.

"Once the contractors have completed their work any associated excavations will be replanted to return them to their original state.

"Trail surfaces will be in keeping with the environment as they will be simply 'hard packed' and not asphalt or concrete.

"Motor bikes are not permitted to use reserves and that restriction will not change," Mr Page said.

Ms Quemby said she did not know what she would accomplish with her protest but felt compelled to make a stand.

"We pay huge rates and there's no consultancy. I just wish I got here in the morning before this all started. I guess it's too late now," she said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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