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Business case supports Coromandel Great Walks Project

12 December 2013

"The Cathedral Coast Walk will be the most stunning walk in New Zealand and be amongst the best in the world".

That's from an economic and business feasibility study being presented to Council on December 18 on a proposed "Cathedral Coast Walk," between Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove and onto the Purangi River and Whitianga.

The report says the proposed walk, which is looking to go through Council reserve, iwi , DoC and QE2 Trust land and private properties, will have significant economic benefits to the wider Coromandel.

Commissioned by Council in September to investigate the viability and economic impact of a walkway from Hot Water Beach to Cathedral Cove and on to the Purangi River, the report was compiled by   Miles and TRC Tourism Limited – both internationally recognized agencies who work with destinations all over the world. 

Their report predicts 50,000 – 100,000 visitors completing the walk by the 3rd year of operation.  Up to 35,000 of these walkers will be new visitors to the region generating up to $14.9m in direct new visitor spending and a further $3-6 million in indirect economic activity (eg: businesses buying goods and services) in the district.  Between 51 and 103 Full Time Equivalent jobs are estimated as being created by the walkway from year 3 of its operation.

The report also highlights the major trends towards shorter, less demanding walks and the health and social benefits of the walkway to the community.

The report also offers recommendations on coordinating the parking, shuttles and business opportunities created by the walkway.

"But it is early days and a huge body of work has to be completed before we can reap the benefits" says Mayor Glenn Leach.

That behind the scenes work includes, supporting Mercury Bay iwi Ngati Hei to undertake a Cultural Assessment, finalising a route to survey, structure and safety designs, resource and building consents, consultation, negotiating  legal easements and tendering.

A project committee comprising Council, iwi, Coastal Walkways and DoC staff was established almost a year ago and have been working behind the scenes with set up to provide governance support to the Project Manager Garry Towler and his team. This group will remain until a Community Trust is established once the project gets under way.

"We haven't been in a position to give details around the project until now, due to sensitivities around negotiations of where a proposed route will go," says Mayor Leach. "And it will also take at least a year or more of behind the scenes work again before there's a sound proposal to look at."

Preliminary survey work has been completed and the ideal route of walking around the coastline and cliffs from Hot Water Beach to Hahei has been discounted. At three pinch points the 'Queens Chain' does not exist as it has fallen away into the water.

"We had the surveys done early as we needed to know for sure if we could or could not gain access around the coastline. Now that we know we can't we will continue discussions with the private land owners over gaining access through their properties" said Mayor Leach " Until these discussions are completed and easements have been agreed to there is little we can do at that section of the walk."

One obvious problem the Walk will create is parking congestion and this has been highlighted in the feasibiilty study. Additional parking for up to 1000 cars will needed between Hahei and Hot Water Beach. The project team are looking at a number of options including utilising Council land, private / public partnerships with land owners and the leasing and purchase of land parcels.

"Getting people to and from the Walk by land or sea is a big part of the plan and a lot of logistical work needs to be done in this area, once again a number of private land owners are part of this discussion and we need to respect their privacy as we work through the issues" says Mayor Leach.

In November Council pledged $1.25m towards the project subject to further consultation through the 2014/2015 Annual Plan process. Council has also applied to central government for $3m of external funding and decision expected early next year

The Cathedral Coast Walk has attracted a lot of media attention including TV1 who visited part of the Walk this week. This in turn is creating greater public awareness and enquiry and expectations.

"It has taken 35 years and many attempts by many groups to build a connecting walk between these two iconic sites and beyond, all have failed for one reason or another. With Council Iwi and DoC teaming up for the first time we have a good chance of success. We need time to build the framework, put the jigsaw pieces into place," says Mayor Leach.

Public meetings will be arranged next year to present a plan. People will also be able to make a submission about the Walks in the 2014/2015 Draft Annual Plan.

"Right now we're keeping communities up-to-date through communication with ratepayer groups, the Mercury Bay Business Association, Coastal Walkways and other community organisations," says Mayor Leach.

"This walk has so much potential to increase visitor numbers and create business growth and job opportunities for our local communities," says Mayor Leach. "We will also be able to promote and preserve the environment and showcase what is so beautiful about the Coromandel."

The proposed Cathedral Coast Walk is part of Council's Coromandel Great Walks project. www.tcdc.govt.nz/corogreatwalks

If you want to receive regular updates about the Proposed Cathedral Coast Walk or the Coromandel Great Walkways please email CommunicationsTeam@tcdc.govt.nz