Some good election results for cycling

12 10 2013

There are some good results for cycling in the region with Celia Wade-Brown re-elected as Mayor in Wellington. This term is hopefully going to be more productive than the last since there are some fresh faces on council including new Greens councillors Sarah Free and David Lee. Well done to them all. Cr. Paul Bruce has been re-elected to the Greater Wellington Regional Council, again good news, and Sue Kedgley, another Green, has returned to politics joining Paul at the GWRC.

Congratulations to Celia, Sarah, David, Paul and Sue. Congrats to the other new councillors too. Now you’ve got some work to do.

With a Wellington council that, as I’m reading it is, a bit friendlier and more inline with Celia, and with more cycle spending approved by the outgoing council, then all those plans might find some traction. The new council may also be less inclined to be pushed around by the NZTA on Wellington roading projects. Hopefully with a change of the national government in 2014, with David Cunliffe as Prime Minister, we can apply the brakes to the craziest parts of the RoNS scheme.

Hopefully we’ll see work begin on the Kaiwharawhara to Petone waterfront cycle path and some kind of scheme for joining J’ville and Tawa as well as action on various cycle routes around the city.

Further afield pro-Transmission Gully Nick Leggett is back as Porirua Mayor. Ross Church is the new mayor of Kapiti, and Brendan Duffy is further entrenched in Horowhenua.


On the whole, with some exceptions, steps in the right direction.


A new piece of cycleway in Levin

4 11 2012

It’s been a little while since I’ve got up Levin way on my bicycle, but I was delighted to find a nice new bit of shared cycleway/footpath on Queen Street East, built to a high standard with a very rideable fine gravel surface.

It runs the length of Queen Street east of the SH57. West of the SH57 is Levin proper and 50km/hr speed zones, so that was already safe riding, but east of the highway there were no verges. So the new tracks link the town to the mountain biking tracks off Denton Road.

It crosses a few driveways of some lifestyle blocks and I understand there was opposition from some of the residents, but it’s good to see that sometimes people just want to have a whinge, and they weren’t listened to. They and their kids are going to benefit from the extra safety too.

There’s also a little bridge.

It is only a little track, only about 2km long, but this is the type of infrastructure we should be building more of. It doesn’t cost much, yet it allows kids to get to school safer, it is popular with dog walkers and other strollers, and links the town with a park (Waiopehu Scenic Reserve) and it’s MTB park. Congrats to all who made it happen. (HDC?/Rotary?)

Tramping from Levin to Palmerston North

25 08 2012

If you’ve got a spare 4 days and want a decent enough tramp that isn’t going to kill you, with public transport at both ends, then I’d recommend a walk from Levin to Palmerston North following the route of the Te Araroa Trail. It is varied and challenging enough to keep you interested, but not so hard to be too difficult. There are no real places to stay along the way, but it should be reasonably easy enough to find a few tent spots along the way.

Starting in Levin at the post office tower first walk up Queen St East to Denton Road and climb the hill up the Arapaepae Lookout track. It’s short and sharp.

Levin from the Arapaepae Lookout

Then follow the track over undulating hills until reaching the far end of Gladstone Road. This is about 3 to 4 hours from the start in Levin.  A little further on along Gladstone Road is the start of the Mangahao-Makahika track, which is to be walked from the Makahika Stream to the Mangahao Dams. Initially it goes across some private land and there is an easy creek crossing or two.

Crisscrossing the Makahika Stream

It starts off flat and only ever climbs gently.

After crossing private land the Mangahao-Makahika enters the Forest Park

The Mangahao-Makahika has a modest climb to a couple lookouts. The walk takes about 5 hours through to the Mangahao Dams and not the 7 or 8 as the brochure and the signs say.

Most of the Mangahao-Makahika track is through forest.

The track descends to the Blackwood Stream deep in the forest. Then it is a short track out to the Mangahao Dams road. Once the Mangahao Dams are reached walk past the 1st dam and take the Tokomaru Valley Road turnoff walking north until the markers are found.

The preferred entrance to Burrton’s track is marked by these markers. There is another access at a boggy carpark a little further north, but this part of the route is worth walking:

Burrton’s track is flat. There are some river crossings which on a frosty winter morning are bracing. If the river is up they’d be too hard.

Burrton’s Track follows the Tokomaru River, and is probably the scenic highlight of the walk.

It’s probably best to camp away from Gladstone or the Mangahao Dam roads. Camping somewhere away from vehicle access ensures your camping won’t be disturbed by the dickhead element. If you don’t want to camp you could stay the first night at the Makahika Outdoor Centre (by prior arrangement) near the end of Gladstone Road. You could also probably, with a bit of effort, make Burn Hut on the Burn Hut Track for night 2, but there’s nowhere for a 3rd night.

Early morning bend in the river.

A good camping spot would be at the first Tokomaru River crossing. There’s a large grassy area with plenty of room. Further along near the site of Burtton’s Whare would also be good.

The perfect lunch spot with light streaming through the foliage.

After the most spectacular bit of the walk through the beautiful forest along Burtton’s Track the Te Araroa trail heads along Scotts Road. It’s not unpleasant. There’s no traffic (and it is behind a locked gate) . It is just in a pine forest.

Is this anti Te Araroa trail graffiti? Why would anyone be against a walking track?

With any luck you’ll meet some pig hunters, like we did. I think the one we met wrestled any pigs and then bit them or something. He didn’t carry a rifle and perhaps he killed  them just with a dirty look.

Through the forest near Scotts Road

Scotts Road is closed to traffic (you’ll perhaps meet some illegal motorcycles) and would be rideable by MTB. It follows a contour and was once a road rather than the current track. Then the Back Track takes you to the end of Kahuterawa Road (which is also the start of the Sledge Track). You could probably camp near the carpark (and there are some loos – the first and only loos of the trip). Walk along Kahuterawa Road for 5 kilometres or so then turn onto Greens Road. The views are quite good over the Manawatu and the roads themselves are quiet country roads.

Keep walking on Greens Road and then onto Turitea Road. On Turitea Road the Te Araroa trail disappears across a paddock to follow the Turitea Stream at the back of people’s houses and paddocks. This gets muddy underfoot and there are a couple creek crossings. The locals might be burning off like they were for me, and you might get pissed off with the smoke and have no choice to walk through it, but hopefully they won’t be quite so stupid for you when you walk that way.

Greens Road countryside

Cross Old West Road and climb the steps into the backblocks of Massey University.

In the backblocks of the University

The walkway finds the Turitea Stream and follows it through the campus. This is actually a nice part of the hike and it finishes up near the entrance to the University. Then it is a noisy walk along the footpath of Tennent Drive through the tunnels with some nice murals, and across the bridge over the Manawatu River.

And then you’ve made it to Palmy.

Palmie’s clock tower beckons at the end of Fitzherbert St

It’s about 50km by road between Levin and Palmerston North, and it’s reasonably direct following the route I describe. I’d estimate it’s about 65 km.

Messages from our sponsors : Mountain View Motel Levin  a great place to stay at the start of your trip.

and does your partner snore like a big old black steam train? Well my better half reckons I do so she started importing earplugs in bulk.

It’s a pity we live amongst the unimaginative

25 08 2012

A while ago I wrote a piece called the Heart of the Horowhenua which were some ideas about how I would route cycleways through the district (the Horowhenua district obviously).  I reckon there are two natural routes through the district, an east west one which I talk about in detail in A Foxton Beach to Castlepoint Cycleway. And a north-south one that would follow the old wooden railway line south out of Palmy and head towards Kapiti. I wrote about a suggested route south of Levin in “The Power Pole route“.

Then there are two main obstacles: Crossing the Manawatu Safely and the fact that all of the non highway routes generally don’t link up into safe backroads touring. Riding along the SH1, the SH56 and the SH57 isn’t the best way to see the Horowhenua safely. Riding along highways generally is horrible because of the noise and the traffic, and the risk of death. Away from the busy roads such as on the top of a levee bank or on a quiet country road the district is pleasant to ride through. On the highways you may as well turn on a blender, put your ear up to it and juggle some sharp knives.

So yes I unapologetically make a few suggestions about linking up routes that may cross private property. Firstly these are only suggestions. Secondly they’re suggestions for cycleways not the Sandhills Bloody Expressway. Thirdly I’m not saying force any landholder into giving up their land. Negotiation, fair dealing, compensation paid, easements negotiated, etc, etc and remember it is a cycleway, so about 3 or 4 metres wide. Some landholders would benefit from new fencing, a new track across a paddock that their farm vehicles could also use, tree planting, shelter belts or whatever. Also not routing them too close to houses. Close them in lambing season. All common sense can be in play.

At the bottom of my Heart of Horowhenua post I wrote the words “Surely these are more than just the scribblings of a madman” as a caption for my hand drawn map:

My thinking has changed a bit north of the river, but south of the river it’s still pretty much the same. I would have the route go East-West through Levin on Queen St and have a round the lake route around Lake Horowhenua which would join up to the northern half of Kawiu Road,  cross State Highway 1, going up the current dead end Te Whanga Road and then join up to Heatherlea Road West and Koputaroa Road, before going up Paiaka Rd.

That prompted (2 years after my initial post) I think a somewhat angry reply from someone named Chris – “I live at the end of Heatherlea West road and tend to suggest your final comment may apply. Heatherlea West road is only a few hundred metres from St Highway one and Koputaroa road. The section of St Highway 1 down to Kawiu road is sufficiently wide for a section of cycleway without the need to put a cycleway right through the middle of two private properties”.

i.e. he or she is calling me a madman. Well if you believe private property rights should always trump the common good, maybe I’d appear to be. Personally I think you’re crazy if you think routing a cycleway down a busy highway with trucks, traffic, noise and fumes is a good idea.

So let’s examine what I meant. Here’s the area in more detail. I wrote SH1 on the State Highway, and you can see Lake Horowhenua in the bottom left corner. It’s the gap between the end of Te Whanga Road and Heatherlea Road West that is the bit in question.

So here is the aerial shot. (I’m using the Walking Access Mapping System by the way for this). I don’t know which house is our commenter’s, and I’m sure it’s a lovely house and they enjoy their peace and quiet (which they wouldn’t lose if there was a cycleway built anywhere nearby).

There are probably a few possible routes that would be possible in negotiation with the property owners, but here is a suggested one:

Or if that doesn’t appeal Te Whanga Road continues as a paper road almost as far Kukutauaki Road.

It’s hardly the most radical of suggestions.

In reality none of my ideas are going to get built, so I wouldn’t fret if I make a suggestion that crosses your land. There is no political will to actually improve people’s lives by improving their recreational opportunities and grant them more access to cross land, and local politicians (yes, even in the Horowhenua) aren’t always the brightest of sparks.

It is a pity we live amongst the unimaginative.

Thwarted access to the hills

5 02 2012

In other countries there is a right to roam. On my Scottish OE I enjoyed climbing any hill that took my fancy. In Sweden the allemansrätten ensures you can pretty much walk anywhere you’d like. In New Zealand outside the conservation estate we get a few scraps of land to walk over. When the land was stolen or bought from the Maoris and it was settled and divvied up there wasn’t much thought for the future recreational needs of all New Zealanders. So there is not much right to roam.

I love the fact that all the topo maps are now available for free from LINZ (even if they are the hugest tiff files that slows my computer down to a snail’s pace) and I really like the Walking Access Mapping System that shows all the cadastral boundaries for all NZ and where you can legally walk. Unfortunately it doesn’t show lots and lots of paper roads criss-crossing the countryside. Take the Horowhenua. There’s only a few surprises. The Waitarere-Hokio Road does indeed join up with Moutere Road as a paper road. The Moutoa Floodway and the stopbanks around Opiki are on public land, as is the historic bridge (but there’s no sign to say so near the engineers monument, so everyone thinks they’re trespassing to go down to the old bridge, but they’re not). And there is a paper road through the Tokomaru gorge.

There’s also some paper roads leading off Wallace Loop Road, Potts Road and Heights Road, but they don’t seem to link up with anywhere you could walk, except tracks that cross private land. This is a great shame, as it would open up quite a lot of nice hikes linking through to the Kohitere Forest (which is private, but open for trampers and mountain bikers). It’s this lack of connectivity of the public rights of access which is stopping developing recreational resources for the people of the Horowhenua, and hence also stopping a few visitors from visiting if there isn’t as much for them to do.

Here’s a snapshot from WAMS showing the area I’m talking about. The pink is a paper road, and the orange and white banded road at the bottom is in the Kohitere Forest. Between them are tracks along the ridge line of the first range of hills you can see looking east standing in Levin.

I went for a walk doing the loop in the forest, beginning and ending at the You Are Here, and walking the northern part of a loop on the brown track below to the Arapaepae Lookout and walk the Arapaepae Track back. (It is part of Te Araroa, but it is a bit unique as it as branch off the main part of the Te Araroa Trail, to link through walkers into Levin.) I also thought I’d explore the trails northwards until I came to a big fence or a dumb No Trespassing sign.

I’m much of the same opinion as the late Christopher Hitchens that “faith” is an overrated virtue, if it is a virtue at all, and trespass is a most underrated virtue. (That’s me, that last bit, not Mr. Hitchens) Most often it is just an excuse for a landowner to be a dick and to stop people from walking across their land, which commonly is a low impact kind of thing anyway.

The Kohitere Forest is planted pines with a few covenanted blocks of native forest. It’s a pleasant place for a walk or mountain bike ride.

And the views of the Ohau Valley and onto the Tararuas can be quite pleasant:

The track leading north out of the forest on the ridge line (I dunno if this bit is private or not. There were no signs or gates as such.) The views were fantastic. From Kapiti Island over the Horowhenua and past the Manawatu. The track was a bit overgrown, but would be safe mountain biking (if you’re allowed on it). Here’s the track of unknown legal status:


Then there is a locked gate with a sign saying no trespassing, and it does go past some houses. So I turned around and went back the way I came. It is really unfortunate that there isn’t a stile and a right to keep on walking. It is really close to the paper road down to Wallace Loop Road, and really what harm would it be to let people walk over these tracks? The track continues, but is verboten:

The no trespassing sign was a bit rude, with the trespassers prosecuted rubbish that they often have, when really all they could do to a trespasser is to ask them to move on, and if they complain to the police all the police can do is put a trespass notice on you, and then it would be an offence to go back onto the private bit of land in the next two years. But at least it wasn’t as rude and mean spirited as this stupid one near the start of my walk. I’m glad someone has tried to rip it from the tree.

The views from the ridgeline were all pretty nice, but here is the view from the Arapaepae Lookout:

Nice place for a hike. Pity about the lack of legal access.

For a richer New Zealand

25 11 2011

Spotted in Levin tonight. For a richer New Zealand.

Back with bicycle related posts after tomorrow’s kerfuffle.

Six Disks Track

14 09 2011

Here’s another suggestion for something to do when the rugby is on; The Six Disks Tramp near Levin. Yes a tramp, not a bike ride, but hey I’m branching out.  This post is sponsored by Mountain View Motel, Levin. A Great Place to Stay.

If you thought that any of the tramps near Levin were too short (like Lake Papaitonga), or required way too much commitment (like the giant 3 or 4 day tramps through the Northern Tararuas), and the tramp to Burn Hut from behind Shannon although a nice length is a bit hard to get to with the log trucks messing up the road, then fear not. Try the Six Disks Track. It is a 9.9km loop from Poads Road (off Gladstone Road) in the hinterland behind Levin. Strictly speaking the Six Disks Track is the short connecting track between the Ohau River track and the Waiopehu Track, but I’ll describe it as a clockwise loop.

Admittedly it doesn’t look much on the map, but it is one of those curly, lovely, tree root and mud tramps that the Tararuas is great for. It’ll take about 4 hours or so, so it is worth a stop if travelling through Levin (and worth an overnight stop according to my sponsor).

From the carpark at Poads Road the walk crosses a private farm over some old terraces of the Ohau River.

When it enters the Forest Park there’s a fork in the track, follow the Ohau River one on the left, as later on the Six Disks track is steep and you’d want to be climbing up it, rather than coming down. The track above the river is mostly flat, and quite a nice track, albeit a bit muddy.

The Six Disks track is signposted going straight up a hill shortly before you reach a swingbridge over a small stream after which the Ohau River track climbs the Gable End Ridge. Climb the Six Disks Track. This is the fun bit. It is as rough as guts, and steep as. It’s a whole lot of fun being a 3D tramp which brings out the gibbon in all of us. The track is often at eye level a few feet ahead. At the top where it hits the Waiopehu Track there is this sign. Notice it is only an hour back to the carpark, which is twice the speed that the walk to this point took. This is a function of how easy the tracks are to walk. The walk down isn’t anywhere as hard.

Most of the walk is within forest, but there are a couple of vistas here or there, and the higher peaks still have their snow cover.

A 4 hour muddy steep tramp in the Northern Tararuas sure beats watching men put their heads up each others’ bottoms or whatever rugby is all about.