Maori landowners support calls to “join the dots” on a $1 million cycleway near Gisborne but don't want the missing piece crossing their land to be “second-best”.
Gisborne District Council has been building the Waikanae to Waipaoa Cycle Trail on behalf of Trust Tairawhiti since the project was funded in 2018.
But council staff told an operations committee meeting on Thursday that issues needed to be resolved “between landowners” on the six-kilometre stretch between Awapuni Sports Stadium and the Waipaoa River mouth — called the Dunes Trail — before work on this section could proceed.
The council had instead opted to use the remaining $365,000 budgeted to create a “new” trail along the Waipaoa stopbank from the Waipaoa river mouth to the Matawhero bridge on State Highway 2 over the Waipaoa River, in what one councillor called “another project”.
Kopututea Trust chairman Pene Brown told The Gisborne Herald the trust was keen for a cycleway on their land but that it should reflect the needs of the whole community, including the iwi of Rongowhakaata.
This meant a high-quality trail suitable for families and people with disabilities, and with facilities such as toilets, a carpark and “pause points” featuring boards telling stories of the history of Rongowhakaata.
“To date, nothing has been presented that shows the council has the same vision as the trustees,” he said.
A former trustee had said that what was good enough for the owners at Waikanae Beach, a fully-boarded walk and cycleway, should also be good enough for Maori landowners, Mr Brown said.
“We've been offered, I believe, a second-best.”
The experience of the trust and trustees of Rongowhakaata on the project had been “unclear leadership” from the council, and a loss of momentum during management changeovers with council staff.
Mr Brown said the trustees felt iwi could have been better consulted.
Cr Andy Cranston, who chaired the meeting, said the cycleway was an initiative of former mayor Meng Foon and the funding was for the stretch from Awapuni to the Waipaoa River mouth.
“I am not comfortable now to have that funding moved over to another project.
“I do see it as another project. Even though I'm fully supportive of cycles and walkway, I see this as a huge handbrake for the intention that we had at the start.
“The connectivity for me is about doing it in a logical sequence, going along from where it is now to where we want to go.”
Cr Cranston said finding funding to finish this project down the line would be a problem. He called on the council to sit down with Rongowhakata “kanohi ki te kanohi” (face-to-face) to find out whether the project would happen.
“We spent a lot of money on this project to get it where it's got to, and all we've done on it is dribs and drabs. I am not comfortable with that at all.”
Council lifelines director David Wilson said the council was “stepping back” from the Dunes Trail section, having done as much as they could with consents and budgets.
“(We have) let Trust Tairawhiti know that that's all we're able to do and the rest sits with them.”
Mr Wilson told councillors issues needed to be resolved between landowners before conversations could progress about the cycle trail.
“We can't weigh into those. These are private property and ownership issues so they are for them to resolve.
“They need to be given the time and space to deal with those to then come back to see if that's still appropriate for their private property, which they were looking to allow people to use and they generously allow us to have the public on that land now.
“That's why we've said ‘ka pai, we'll talk to you when you're ready'.”
Cr Sandra Faulkner echoed a point made by Cr Pat Seymour about protecting the dunes and endorsed Cr Cranston's point about “not letting this project just go”.
Council staff had the support of councillors to do what they could as an organisation to “join the dots”, she said.
Cr Larry Foster said he appreciated Cr Cranston's concerns but that the extension would enhance the whole project.
“It's not as if you can't get down to the river already. There's a road down there so that can be used by cyclists, and walkers can walk on the side of the road at least to access it.
“We're hamstrung where we are with the landowners at the moment so this is at least a continuation of this project.”
To date, 450 metres of concrete footpath alongside the Adventure Playground and Awapuni Stadium on Centennial Marine Drive, and eight kilometres of gravel trails from Waipaoa River mouth to Matawhero bridge over the Waipaoa River have been constructed.
The Gisborne Cycle and Walkway Trust have engaged with Rongowhakaata and Kopututea Trust to collaborate on a “joint project” to complete the Dunes Trail, a staff report said.