Coastal Pacific Trail working group calls for feedback to highlight 'local stories' along route
A proposed trail down the South Island's upper east coast could be an opportunity for communities to showcase their stories, history and beautiful spots normally hidden to travellers.
The group behind the Coastal Pacific Trail is calling for feedback on where the route should go and what attractions it should highlight on the way from the Marlborough Sounds to Christchurch.
Working group member Margaret Cooney said the goal was to make the trail as spectacular as possible, but the group also wanted to benefit communities along the route.
"Our whole goal is for the trail to be a series of journeys, with each section based around a particular community and local stories, history and attractions," she said.
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"It's really important to have that community contribution, because they'll be the ones who will be able to highlight some interesting sights."
Cooney said an example of a significant site along the route was Te Pokohiwi o Kupe, or the Wairau Bar, one of the earliest sites of Polynesian settlement in the country.
Detours from the main Coastal Pacific Trail could branch out to attractions, as well as places users could stay along the route or businesses they could visit, she said.
The group was especially interested in hearing from people between Blenheim and Ward, the first stage of the trail which they hoped to start construction on this year.
However, Cooney said that depended on whether they could secure council funding. The group had applied for $450,000 through the council's annual plan process.
The funding was to cover the cost of hiring a project manager, carrying out community consultation, and to go towards the cost of building the first stage of the trail.
"We're open to feedback along the whole route, but the initial focus is the Blenheim to Ward section because we're hoping to kick off development this year," Cooney said.
Working group members Kevin Wilson and Vern Ayson had done substantial work identifying the route for the first section to Ward where excitement was building for the project.
John Hickman had been in discussions with the group to allow the trail to run through his 650-hectare farm Taimate, 5 kilometres north of Ward.
"For the community it's a really exciting project, it's got the potential to provide slow, high-value traffic to an area that for the last 30 years has been pretty stagnant in its growth," he said.
"I know of various people that are already thinking outside the box in terms of how it's going to impact them and what the potential opportunities are."
Hickman said the trail could lead to the development of innovative new businesses, and provide a boost to existing food and accommodation providers in the Flaxbourne district.
It had also encouraged the community to be more ambitious about the development of a new heritage and visitor centre to replace Flaxbourne Museum, which was damaged beyond repair in the earthquake.
Hickman said the centre would go ahead regardless, but the prospect of more people coming through meant there was more scope to make it "as good as it can be".
Anyone with ideas or feedback on the proposed trail, especially on the first phase from Blenheim to Ward, visit the Coastal Pacific Trail Facebook page or email email@example.com
- The Marlborough Express