National walking track hits Southland snag

TAKING THE LONG WAY: Tramper Paulus Smit (left), from the Netherlands, and Israeli tramper Eyal Schwartz (right) meet  Te Araroa national walking track chief executive Geoff Chapple after spending about three months walking the track from Kaitaia to Bluff.
BARRY HARCOURT/The Southland Times
TAKING THE LONG WAY: Tramper Paulus Smit (left), from the Netherlands, and Israeli tramper Eyal Schwartz (right) meet Te Araroa national walking track chief executive Geoff Chapple after spending about three months walking the track from Kaitaia to Bluff.

Securing agreements to use private land in Southland is holding up construction of a national walking track.

Planning began 10 years ago and Te Araroa Trust chief executive Geoff Chapple said the national track was scheduled to officially open within a year but there were still parts of the track where agreements to use private land had not been reached – including Southland.

The track, from Kaitaia to Bluff, was complete in Otago but less than 50 per cent finished in Southland, he said.

Southland Te Araroa Trust chairman Lloyd Blakie said about 80 per cent of the track through Southland Department of Conservation-managed land was complete and he hoped the remainder of the track would be finished by the end of the year.

But the trust was still working through agreements with "one or two" landowners who could not be named.

He was adamant, however, that the agreements would be reached soon.

Trustee Robin McNeill said the process of constructing the track had been slow for most of the 10-year period because of limited funding, but a $3.8 million injection from the Labour-led government in 2007 provided the resources to construct the track across most of the conservation land, he said.

Meanwhile, the national track has already achieved international significance as people from around the world travel to New Zealand to walk it.

Tramper Paulus Smit, of the Netherlands, and Israeli tramper Eyal Schwartz completed the 3000km trip on Tuesday after about three months of walking.

Mr Schwartz said he had tramped internationally and favoured the track because of its diverse nature in such a compact length.

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