A group of "unashamed supporters" of Craggy Range's controversial Te Mata Peak track have formed an incorporated society intent on waging a legal battle to keep it.
"We have formed the society as a vehicle to promote this overwhelming public interest in retaining the Craggy Range Track," Te Mata Peak Peoples' Track Society chairman George Williams said.
The group aimed to "give a voice" to the nearly 17,500 people who signed a recent petition to save the Craggy Range Te Mata Peak track, he said.
The society had today instructed its lawyer to write to Hastings District Council explaining the need for public consultation on the fate of the track, and of the group's intention to support the council in defending any legal proceedings that might be brought to challenge the legality of the track.
Williams said the strong support shown through the "Save the Craggy Range Walking Track" online petition demonstrated that people saw the track as a "fantastic addition to recreation and tourism in Hawke's Bay".
"We are thrilled to be able to support petition initiator Rebecca McNeur in forming an organisation to formally represent the views of those signatories.
"We're thrilled that Rebecca has agreed to join the society as secretary."
Peoples' Track Society spokesman Xan Harding said the group stood "for a fair hearing" for the significant number of people in Hawke's Bay who supported the retention of the track.
"We also adamantly believe in the need for a balanced and objective approach to determining its fate.
"We acknowledge that iwi have a particular interest in Te Mata Peak and were not properly consulted.
"Now there needs to be local dialogue, local consensus-building and the pursuit of win-win solutions to heal the division within our community.
"Te Mata Peak undoubtedly has outstanding landscape value that should be protected but it is also an outstanding recreational feature for the region and embodies significant cultural, biodiversity and tourism values as well. All these things are important, and it should be up to the people of Hawke's Bay to decide."
Te Mata Peak Peoples' Track Society Inc also launched an appeal through the Givealittle.co.nz website. Funds raised will go towards defending potential legal action, and for betterment of the track.
The zig zag- shaped track on the eastern face of Te Mata Peak was created by Craggy Range Winery, on land it owned opposite the Giants Winery on Waimarama Rd in December.
Hastings District Council granted resource consent for the track, which was described by one councillor as looking like a "big Zorro sign".
The winery closed the track after a subsequent outcry from iwi and opponents but people have continued to use the track.
Legal action against HDC was threatened by Auckland-based lobby group, the Environmental Defence Society, which said the council had acted illegally in granting consent.
However, a statement from Craggy Range, issued in late December, stated that despite support for the track to stay, it felt that on balance, and after discussions with mana whenua, "it was in the best interests of the entire community to remove it, restore the land and return the property to its previous owner and allow everyone to move forward".
Hawke's Bay Today was yesterday unable to contact Ngati Kahungunu, Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst or Craggy Range for comment.