120km walkway around Chch a 'no-brainer'

RACHEL YOUNG
Last updated 05:00 29/04/2014
Great Perimeter Walkway

GRAND DESIGN: Could this become one of NZ's great walks?

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City councillors are warming to the idea of a walkway stretching 120 kilometres around Christchurch.

Colin Meurk has spent about 25 years developing and lobbying for money for a "Great Perimeter Walkway".

The ecologist says the idea is a "no-brainer" as it links predominantly existing walkways.

It connects the coast, volcanic hills, Christchurch streams, native bush, braided rivers, wetlands and the Waimakariri River.

Meurk has made a submission on the Christchurch City Council's Draft Annual Plan 2014/15 for $35,000 for signage, information boards and marketing. However, the main thing he wants from the council is formal recognition of it as an asset, and staff help.

He hoped to create a mobile app so people could learn about the biodiversity, culture and nature they saw as they walked or cycled the track.

Cr Glenn Livingstone said it should be a priority project if funding was available.

"It's part of our ongoing social and physical recovery. We need this."

Cr Pauline Cotter supported the walkway, saying it would be an ideal project to have alongside the coastal pathway.

"It's not a great deal of money and it would be such an asset," she said. "It'd be a great tourism feature."

She hoped the council could find money for it.

Meurk was glad councillors were voicing their support but hoped it would turn into something tangible.

In 2009, the walkway, developed by Meurk through a sub-committee of Sustainable Otautahi Christchurch, won the "top commitment by an organisation" category at the inaugural Golden Foot Awards.

That same year the council approved funding of $20,000 for the project to create signs and develop a guidebook.

That money was re-allocated after the earthquakes, and has never been given to Meurk.

He said the walkway would provide economic benefits to businesses, cafes and accommodation providers along the route.

The walkway, nicknamed Meurky's walk, complemented the city's existing natural assets, including Riccarton Bush, Travis Wetland Natural Heritage Park and the Port Hills.

Meurk hoped to launch the walkway in late spring with a weekend event involving an ultra-marathon, cycle and walk.

He will present his submission at the council's annual plan hearings next month.

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- The Press

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