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Kauaeranga Valley DOC tracks open after last year's storm devastation

15 June 2018

Officials from the Department of Conservation (DOC) held a thank you event today for all those involved in efforts to re-open the road past the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre and tracks, including the one up to the popular Pinnacles hut, after severe storm damage in March last year.

Our Mayor Sandra Goudie (2nd from right) with L-R: Wati Ngamene, Avi Holzapfel and David Spiers.

(Photo: Our Mayor Sandra Goudie (2nd from right) with L-R: Wati Ngamene, Avi Holzapfel and David Spiers.)

"In March 2017 850mm of rain fell in several days, most of it in one day," says Avi Holzapfel, Hauraki Operations Manager for DOC.

That's nearly one-quarter of the average annual rainfall for the Kauaeranga Valley, as measured by the Pinnacles rainfall monitor.

"It took out several bridges and tracks. Parts of the road were washed away. The campgrounds became swampgrounds. We had to close Pinnacles Hut," Mr Holzapfel says.

The tracks and the hut remained closed until they were reopened temporarily in time for the Christmas and summer period. Then they were closed again so more repairs could take place.

Now, the tracks have been restored, the road repaired and the Kauaeranga River's banks shored up with 10,000 cubic metres of rock.

DOC's Waikato Director of Operations, David Spiers, says the restoration work soaked up most of DOC's national budget for capital works.

"It's no small thing to ask your colleagues to put aside their priorities so you can deliver yours. You have to deliver." Mr Spiers says of Mr Holzapfel.

The thank you event, held at DOC's Kauaeranga Visitor Centre, comes as a joint project between DOC and our Council to seal Kauaeranga Valley Road to the visitor centre has just been completed.

Kauaeranga Valley Road sealed in joint project

Kauaeranga Valley Road has now been sealed all the way to the DOC Visitor Centre, thanks to a joint TCDC-DOC project.)

(Photo: Kauaeranga Valley Road has now been sealed all the way to the DOC Visitor Centre, thanks to a joint TCDC-DOC project.)

"Thank you Mayor Sandra for delivering on that road and partnering with us to save us a considerable amount of money," says Mr Spiers.

"Who comes to the Kauaeranga Visitor Centre and how they come will change as a result of the work that's gone on here," he says.

Our Mayor Sandra Goudie commended the hard work DOC had put in to make the valley's tramping tracks accessible again.

"I'm mayor, but I also represent the Council, the Community Board and all the people of the district. We are all hugely appreciative of the environment and all DOC does to conserve it. You've had a huge job. I'd like to say a big thank you on behalf of all the people I represent," Mayor Sandra says.

The Kauaeranga Valley is a popular destination for local, New Zealand and International visitors.  The numerous swimming holes, campsites and the iconic Pinnacles walk are the main drawcards.  The Visitor Centre receives more than 30,000 visitors a year, a figure which is rising annually.

DOC estimates that the Pinnacles has more than 50,000 visitors each year.  The largest hut in New Zealand (sleeps 80) is at the Pinnacles and is very popular.

It is often full over the summer months and is also well used in winter by school groups and New Zealanders.

The Kauaeranga Valley Road has had a history maintenance issues and the unsealed stretch presented a barrier to visitors.

"Sealing of the road as far as the Visitor Centre will make the centre and its facilities accessible to more people, including drivers of rental vehicles whose insurance does not cover travel on unsealed roads, and much improved road safety for those users," says Wendy Hillerich, the Visitor Centre's Supervisor.

Everything's open

This sign by the Thames Jockey Club at the beginning of Kauaeranga Valley Road says it all.

This sign by the Thames Jockey Club at the beginning of Kauaeranga Valley Road says it all.