Re-opening a central city stretch of Hamilton's showpiece riverside walkway could cost city ratepayers up to $800,000. But it can't come soon enough for many Hamiltonians who have waited three years for access to be reopened.
Councillors will debate a staff proposal tomorrow recommending that the council buys the slip-affected riverbank site owned by Tainui. The council's river pathway crosses the 750 square metre plot but has been closed since July 2011 after a slip between Bryce St and Claudelands Bridge.
Tainui has agreed to sell the land for $50,000 - $24,000 below its rateable value - having previously said it would not contribute to the costs of fixing the slip.
Staff estimate that repairing the slip could cost an additional $650,000 for soil nailing and $100,000 to restore the river walkway.
A staff report said that there was "high public interest" in reopening the walkway and described the river path as an important city asset.
Hamilton Deputy Mayor Gordon Chesterman said he would have liked Tainui to help fund the slip repair but was willing to wear the cost of the land purchase. He said the matter "had gone on too long".
A cheaper option listed in the staff report is for the council to continue with its current lease with Tainui and construct a $480,000 piled walkway across the site.
Tainui Group Holdings chief executive Mike Pohio said having the council purchase the riverbank section would allow them to speed up the remedial work. "Council ownership and control of the entire stretch of river walkway is important to resolving this matter, but also any other possible future issues that may arise," Pohio said.
The $50,000 sale price included a discount and was Tainui's contribution to getting the matter resolved.
Asked why Tainui had previously declined to help fund the slip remedial work, Pohio would only say that that was an issue that arose some time ago.
"I don't think there's any relevant comment that can be made at this time."
Hamilton Nordic walking instructor Sandrine Smith took groups along the river pathway weekly and said it was frustrating that the slip-affected section had been closed since 2011.
Remedial work to fix a second smaller slip on council land under the Claudelands Bridge was underway.
Smith said less able walkers had to turn back at the slip site because they were unable to negotiate the steep steps either side of the slip. "When the path was open the level of fitness to walk it was quite moderate so I think if council fixed it, many people would use it and benefit from it."
Chesterman said the Waikato River walkways and cycleways also created a unique tourism experience in the city and throughout the region.
The value of the cycling tourist dollar was underlined by Hamilton & Waikato Tourism's departing chief executive Kiri Goulter yesterday.
Goulter said cycling tourism was a growing market which the city could leverage off.
Most of the country's cycleways were rural-based, whereas Hamilton featured an urban-based cycleway.
RATEPAYER'S 142K FOOTPATH FIX
Hamilton ratepayers are being asked to wear a $142,000 bill to fix the footpath and kerb on one of the city's busiest streets due to damage caused by council trees.
The fix-up job, which relates to a section of Anglesea St between Collingwood St and Knox St, will be presented by council staff at tomorrow's finance committee meeting.
If approved, the work will be timed to coincide with Wel Networks' planned infrastructure upgrade in the area to ensure the footpath is not torn up twice.
The work is not expected to be done this financial year.
A staff report said the roadside Mexican ash trees had caused significant damage to sections of the footpath, kerb and channel, and gardens along the street.
The footpath was lifted in places, causing a trip hazard, while the kerb and channel was damaged to the extent drainage was being affected.
The repairs would include footpath, kerb and channel maintenance, and tree removal.
Upright oak or upright hornbeam are proposed to replace the Mexican ash.
- Waikato Times