Cyclists will soon be able to ride from the coast to coast in Northland by way of an exciting new cycleway arising from a community project.
With a disused railway line running nearby the people
of Kaikohe had already started on the dream of turning it into a cycleway. When the Government said it wanted to invest in a series of new national cycleways, Kaikohe quickly put its case forward.
They were thrilled to get quick start funding because they knew a cycleway would be accompanied by a long list of benefits, including: jobs, farm diversification, more local services, better health for locals and a stronger culture.
The proposed cycle trail will run from Horeke on the upper reaches of the Hokianga harbour (where the second signing of the Treaty of Waitangi occurred after the initial signatures were gathered at Waitangi), through the town of Kaikohe and on to Opua, just
south of Waitangi on the Bay of Islands.
But the opportunity comes with challenges, particularly for a community with so little financial resources. The benefits will only come if they can get the quality of the visitor experience, and the supporting services (connecting transport and cafes for example) right.
Experts close to the process are emphatic that what will make the cycleways “sing” is the involvement of the local community and the unique cultural experience that the community can offer visiting cyclists. This is dependent on the capacity of the community to rapidly set up new tourism businesses and to organise participation and influence decisions that affect them.
This project is working with Kaikohe and surrounding communities to make the most of the economic development potential that a “quick start” cycleway on their doorstep offers; specifically ensuring access to expertise, resources and time to help build community enterprise, a remarkable local brand and low carbon tourism.
So far, thanks to local community leaders, the community is more involved in Council decision-making and the first sections of the track have been cleared by local youth workers. Other young unemployed are learning carving skills so they can create the Pou (posts erected to symbolise the relationship between Māori iwi and hapu and the land) that will mark the cycleway. Kaikohe Community Trust has two previously unemployed young people working with it on the cycleway project - gathering local stories and building understanding and support.
“We are trying to provide a catalyst for a number of community outcomes with spinoffs for tourism and community development in the Hokianga”, said John Vujcich of the Cycleway group. “The cycleway will help to showcase the history of the area with several points of historical, ecological and community interest along the way,” he said.
Much of the proposed cycleway runs along unused rail corridors. People from Kaikohe have been working on opening up this section of the track for some time. It would attract visitors to an area of New Zealand with its own unique brand of culture, diverse scenery, and rich history. This story needs to be told. It has the potential to spawn a number of local business initiatives around cultural tourism and provide a welcome economic boast to small rural communities located on the proposed route.