It took a bit longer than anticipated and nearly bankrupted the PTA, but the new Wairoa Stream Track that borders Kerikeri Primary School has finally been finished.
About 150 people including teachers, volunteers and dozens of students turned out to the opening ceremony of the walking track on Wednesday which included a blessing by teacher and minister Denise Barrington and several waiata by the school's bilingual unit Te Whaka Tu Pu Ranga.
Deputy Principal and project facilitator Rosemary Murphy, who touted the track as "the gateway to a new outdoor classroom", said the project was sparked when she met Vision Kerikeri chairman Rod Brown while walking in the forest three years ago.
Though students had been planting natives along the stream to help the forest regenerate as part of the Enviroschools programme, they had to walk 20 minutes to the Cobham Rd bridge by Orchard Estate.
Thanks to Brown and his group Friends of Wairoa Stream they now have direct access to the stream via the track which borders the school field. It now takes just five minutes to reach the stream.
"Now we just go down the track and we're there," Murphy said.
"It opens up all these enviro opportunities for us. It's right here on our doorstep and there's so much we can learn about our environment right here at our gate."
Brown said it took longer than initially thought to clear the overgrown path of tobacco weed, black wattle, acmena and blackberry.
"We really had to spray the kikuyu and other weed species so children could plant, and it will eventually turn into a pristine native forest."
Brown said it the project was about "more than building a track and public access".
"It's about trying to recover from our past and get rid of weed species and link remnant forest patches with new plantings to get continuous forest plantings the whole length of the stream."
Brown also led the massive volunteer effort to restore public access to Wairere Falls that was hidden for more than 40 years.
That track, which starts at the bottom of Alderton Drive or the footbridge at the bottom of Pa Rd, follows the Wairoa Stream upstream through forest to the 20m-high waterfall and was opened after years of effort in April 2017.
Ten months later Brown was honoured with an Outdoor Access Champion Award by the Walking Access Commission. The school thanked Mitre 10 for providing materials and the Parent Teachers Association for its support in the latest project.