Popular Kauaeranga Valley tramping tracks devastated by storm

DOC Ranger Nick Heslop assesses the damage to the Wainora Ford, near the Kauaeranga Valley Education Camp.
Supplied

DOC Ranger Nick Heslop assesses the damage to the Wainora Ford, near the Kauaeranga Valley Education Camp.

Kauaeranga Valley tramping tracks near Thames are expected to be closed for at least another month after being devastated by a recent storm.

More than 850mm of rain fell at the Pinnacles Hut in the Coromandel Ranges during the Tasman Tempest weather event a few weeks ago.

The unusually heavy rainfall - two months' rain in four days, caused flooding in the valley, massive slips and closed the road and several tramping tracks.

The Kauaeranga Valley Rd is currently closed after being undermined by the river.
Supplied

The Kauaeranga Valley Rd is currently closed after being undermined by the river.

It also meant the annual fundraising marathon, Surf to Firth, was cancelled because the event used the tracks.

Department of Conservation (DOC) senior ranger Leanne Irvine said Kauaeranga Valley Rd remained closed past the visitor centre.

The road had been undercut by the river in places and damage to the Wainora ford, near the education camp, meant the ford would be unpassable for at least another week, she said.

A massive slip has blocked the Billy Goat track up the Kauaeranga Valley.
Supplied

A massive slip has blocked the Billy Goat track up the Kauaeranga Valley.

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Damage to the Billy Goat track.
Supplied

Damage to the Billy Goat track.

"The lower Kauaeranga catchment was the area that was mostly affected. It's one of the worst events that we've had," she said.

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The Webb Creek track to the Pinnacles Hut was closed due to numerous slips and was not likely to open for at least a month. The Billy Goat track was open to the camp but closed further up the track due to a massive slip.

The Wainora Kauri track was also closed after being washed out. Further north, Crosbies Hut was still open, however, the Rangihau track was closed.

Irvine said there was also a lot of damage to some of the DOC camp grounds, particularly those near the river.

DOC currently had inspectors and engineers checking all the bridges for damage, and staff and contractors were working on fixing the tracks and roads, she said.

It was too soon to estimate how much it would cost to complete the work, she said.

Staff would also work on the Pinnacles Hut while the track was closed, she said.

"We'll use that time productively because there's maintenance that needs doing on the hut."

Meanwhile, she advised visitors to contact DOC for updates.

"Anybody wanting to go up the valley should contact the visitor centre because they will know how things are standing in terms of repairs."

Phone 07 867 9080 or email: kauaerangavc@doc.govt.nz.

SURF TO FIRTH

Meanwhile, the Surf to Firth Events Trust made the call to cancel its March 11 event because of track damage and the road being closed.

The annual fundraiser supports Land Search and Rescue and Coromandel Rescue Helicopter. The tough marathon course takes entrants over the Coromandel Ranges from Hikuai School to Thames, using DOC tracks.

Trustee Ian Handcock said they were hoping to run a half marathon event but the tracks were too damaged.

Volunteers had taken time off work and spent many hours maintaining the tracks in preparation for the event, he said.

"We put our heart and soul into the event," he said.

"But at the end of the day, that's just mother nature, you can't do much about it. It's a tough race for a reason."

The event had been cancelled once before, during Cyclone Lusi in 2014. Handcock said the trust was yet to decide what would happen to entry fees that had been paid.

Because there were fixed costs that were not recoverable, it was likely entrants would be offered a discount on next year's event, he said.

 - Stuff

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