Fears a Te Araroa trail walker could drown crossing the Turakina River brought trail chief executive Mark Weatherall to the seaside settlement of Koitiata on December 24.

He met Koitiata residents who say the river crossing near their village can be unsafe.

Also present was Whanganui region Te Araroa trust member Brian Doughty, who marked out the crossing.

Until this summer the 3000km Cape Reinga to Bluff Te Araroa (TA) trail left Whanganui on SH3 and took the Turakina Beach Rd to Koitiata before heading down the coast. But walking SH3 was hot, open and dangerous.

Advertisement

This year the route was changed to head up Portal St to No 2 Line and Fordell, take Warrengate Rd, walk 3km of SH3 and Whangaehu Beach Road and a stretch of beach heading south. Walkers are then to cross the Turakina River at a marked point and within two hours of low tide.

Te Araroa walkers are best to cross the Turakina River further inland, and at low tide. Photo / Lewis Gardner
Te Araroa walkers are best to cross the Turakina River further inland, and at low tide. Photo / Lewis Gardner

Koitiata resident Jim Mant said several had got into trouble in the crossing, and local people had rescued them. He is seeing some walkers choosing to walk the highway rather than cross the river.

Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson is concerned about river crossing risk. Photo / Bevan Conley
Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson is concerned about river crossing risk. Photo / Bevan Conley

Rangitīkei Mayor Andy Watson has expressed concern about the crossing. He said it was good to get the walkers off SH3 but a bridge over the Turakina would be ideal.

"The crossing can be nasty at the best of times, with unseen holes, and the river is often in flood, especially in the early summer."

Weatherall wants to hear both sides of the story. He had been comfortable with the route change, but also respects the residents' concerns. He wanted to see the crossing for himself.

Te Araroa Whanganui trust member Brian Doughty marked a Turakina River crossing. Photo / Bevan Conley
Te Araroa Whanganui trust member Brian Doughty marked a Turakina River crossing. Photo / Bevan Conley

Around 20 TA walkers a day pass through Whanganui in December and Doughty has not heard of any problems with the river crossing. He said it was just one of many rivers to be crossed on the trail.

And there are others that should only be crossed at low tide, Weatherall said.

"We can only provide so much information and hope that [TA walkers] use commonsense about whatever kind of hazards."

Advertisement

There's another nearby problem with the trail. For TA walkers who don't choose to canoe from Taumarunui to Whanganui the trail between the Mangapurua Trig and Bridge to Nowere is closed.

It was supposed to be open by Christmas and Conservation Department staff are working on it. Weather has held them up, Weatherall heard.

"Based on the safety of people they haven't been able to complete it."

Geoff Chapple's first version of the trail had it heading south from Whanganui down the coast, but achieving that needs permission from landowners and a bridge over the Whangaehu River.

Te Araroa has no budget for that bridge. It's funded by community grants and donations from walkers and a case is to be made to Government for funding - at a similar level to that provided to cycleways.