Last Friday I attended the short ceremony to officially close and bid farewell to the Dawson Falls Lodge on Mt Taranaki. In recent years the lodge has been successfully owned and operated by Te Korowai o Ngāruahine Trust, which has kept the present facility trading while they developed future plans. The planning is now complete. Over the next 12 months Ngāruahine will demolish the building, which is looking very tired, and build a brand-new lodge that includes more accommodation, a restaurant and meeting facilities. The new building has a strong, authentic cultural component in its design and will be genuinely fit for purpose.
This is exactly the type of new, capital investment the Taranaki region visitor/tourist market needs. The new lodge is at the start point of the Taranaki Crossing trail that traverses Mt Taranaki and is now being developed into a first-class walkway. The lodge is therefore well positioned to become a busy place once completed, and will be a wonderful new stopover point for visitors to the region.
Speaking of stopping, it seems there will be plenty of it over the coming months as Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency starts its summer road maintenance programme on SH3. There have already been loads of feedback about its plans to send southbound traffic on a lengthy bypass from Inglewood to Midhirst. Motorists will need to drive slowly and carefully on their excursion into the country as people's safety relies on the good behaviour of all drivers at all times.
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Late last week, in response to concerns raised by the Road Carriers Association (truckies), changes were announced to the original traffic management plan. A suggested alternative route for heavy trucks was for them to use SH45 around the mountain, but this has met resistance. Now instead, on SH3 a southbound lane will be open at set times for heavy vehicles only, which will help decongest the Inglewood-Midhirst bypass route. But the new plan variation comes with a catch.
This will create lengthy delays on SH3 for all traffic heading north as it will mean stop/go is in operation to allow the trucks to pass through as they head south. I suggest checking the details before you embark on your journey, especially when heading north, as it is not always going to be plain sailing when heading in that direction. I am sure we have not heard the end of this issue, which will cause a massive disruption over the next eight to nine weeks.
One option, though, for those considering heading north to shop; it might just be less hassle to shop locally when and where you can to support our local businesses. Times are really tough for businesses at the moment because the overall impact of the Covid restrictions affects the way every business goes about doing its work. It is not just about managing the way customers enter stores and the need for masks etc; the difficulties extend to the supply of products, accessing materials, the availability of labour and much, much more. As a community, every time we spend a dollar locally, we help each other to get through this Covid-19 nightmare. Shopping local is a win-win.
There was more good news last Friday when the security fences came down and the kids were allowed to use the new bike park and basketball court for the first time. I checked it out on Saturday, then took my granddaughter there on Sunday for some fun, she wasn't disappointed. The place was packed with kids riding everywhere and parents standing by in small groups chatting among themselves while keeping a watchful eye on their youngsters. It was really gratifying to see that this project has come to fruition and will be a great attraction to the town. As a sweetener, the project was funded through the Government's shovel-ready projects initiative, meaning the cost of construction has not fallen on our ratepayers. As a small-town bike park, I doubt if there is a better one in New Zealand. Well done and thanks to everyone involved in this project.