Perennial social-justice battler and former Napier businessman Pat Magill seems never short of ideas, even at the age of 89.

To mark the occasion, even if a day or two early, he walked 60km across Auckland.

But it's "not about me," he says of his latest exercise to promote the most urban sector of the Te Araroa Trail, a 3000km Cape Reinga to Bluff footprint he wants others to follow as an "an affordable Outward Bound" in coming to grips with the problems of at-risk communities, families and people throughout the country.

He was one of only two of a mainly Napier group to complete the three-day exercise, which supporter Minnie Ratima said was an inspiration to all involved, including the youngest, a 14-year-old who also walked the distance.


"Pat's just amazing," said Ms Ratima, who returned to Napier yesterday. She started the walk with the group at the Auckland Ferry Terminal on Saturday but left Mr Magill to walk with daughter-in-law Jo Magill on the last leg yesterday from Puhinui Reserve, Manurewa, to Totara Park, a short distance from the Manukau CBD.

Mr Magill says the trail is a cheap alternative to the cycle trails network.

"It's already keeping people out of institutions," he said last night, resting up at Halfmoon Bay.

Mr Magill draws some of his inspiration from his daughter-in-law's experience on the El Camino trail in Spain, which many take up as a form of spiritual path or retreat.

Over the last three days he carried the New Zealand flag to help make his point, saying later the nation needed to "use its environment" as an alternative to all that went with "the concrete and the growth of the big cities".

"Perhaps our young nation will deserve a new flag when whatever government supports the community towards earlier intervention, rather than supporting the likes of (private prisons operation) Serco," he said.

Mr Magill's roles as a community mentor and the backbone of the Napier Pilot City Trust has challenged communities, leaders and politicians to examine issues behind high imprisonment rates in New Zealand and to find better alternatives.