Heaphy thrills back on track

01:28, May 02 2012

The path has been smoothed for riders and walkers on the Heaphy Track leading up to the reopening of the track to mountain bikers as part of a three-year trial.

A total of $10,500 in donations from Nelson mountain bikers and some national mountain biking businesses has been used to support the Department of Conservation track improvement work.

An upgrade has just been completed on parts of a 3.5-kilometre section of the track that eroded in the Mackay Hill area.

The donation enabled DOC to carry out the work sooner than programmed, Golden Bay area manager John Mason said.

Mountain bikers are gearing up for the second year of a three-season trial on the 78km Kahurangi National Park track, running until September 30.

The New Zealand Conservation Authority last year approved a three-year trial to allow bikes on the track. An estimated 1700 mountain bikers rode the Heaphy Track last winter.


Keen mountain biker and member of the group that pushed for access to the renowned track, Bryce Buckland said the Heaphy was as desirable to mountain bikers as the Milford was to walkers.

"We hold it in very high esteem. It has great huts, great views and diverse vegetation and it's great for the mountain bike fraternity to support DOC," Mr Buckland said.

He said the repair work was for the benefit of all users.

The Nelson Mountain Bike Club donated $5000 to the repair work and another $5500 for materials was given by mountain biking businesses Ground Effect, Sheppard Industries, W H Worrall, Hyperformance Hardware and PRV.

Mr Mason said the track surface in the Mackay Hill area was uneven and muddy due to water damage from heavy rainfall.

Repairs included installing a New Zealand designed and made recycled-plastic matting, JakMat, which is laid into the built-up ground and fine gravel is then spread over it.

The mat's special interlocking features helps to stabilise the path and make it more resilient, Mr Mason said.

Nelson Mountain Bike Club president Chris Mildon said the club welcomed being able to contribute to improving the Heaphy experience and the donation reflected the high status and esteem for the track by the off-road riding community.

The new track surface in the MacKay Hill area is among a number of improvements walkers and bikers will be encountering on the track as part of a DOC programme of upgrades in line with the standards set for the track as a Great Walk.

A new Perry Saddle Hut is close to completion and should open later this month and a new Heaphy Hut is being built which is expected to open later this year. The old huts at these sites are still in use in the meantime.

New swing bridges have been put in over Swan Burn and Gunner River and other track maintenance and improvement work has been carried out.

Mr Buckland reminded prospective mountain bikers that the Heaphy was a challenging ride and should not be taken lightly. Riders needed good clothing and food, and needed to book huts several days in advance.

The Nelson Mail