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Now 10 years old, the Hauraki Rail Trail surface has reached the end of its life-span, and will cost between $6-7 million to upgrade. Photo: CHRIS PARKER

Rail trail plea for $7m upgrade

A pitch for Thames-Coromandel District Council to contribute funding to the Hauraki Rail Trail was heard at council’s first day of Long Term Plan hearings last week.
Day one of the hearings, held in Thames on May 4, was attended by a full house of elected members. To them, Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust chief executive Diane Drummond asked for council’s financial support for the resurfacing of the trail between Kōpū and Hikutaia in order for it to continue to meet Grade One standards of the Great Ride network.
She said the district council’s Long Term Plan (LTP) consultation document was “silent on support” for the trail upgrade.
“The trail surface has now reached 10 years of age, and that’s the end of its life-span. We’re looking at between $6-7 million dollars of resurfacing for the trail network,” she said.
The cost would be divided among Hauraki District Council, Matamata-Piako District Council, and Thames-Coromandel District Council, with the latter’s expected costs amounting to just over $1.3 million. However, Diane told council the resurfacing should meet the criteria for support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) for 50 per cent co-funding, meaning TCDC’s exposure would be reduced to $651,376 plus GST.
She also said the number of people using the trail between Kōpū and Thames was up 81 per cent since 2019, with trail users in Thames recorded at 22,155 during March and peaking at 41,500 in December, 2020.
“In Hikutaia, we’re on par with last year, but we’re up 100 per cent on 2017-2018 numbers.
“People are coming,” she said.
“It is driving people to our area. Our average spend in the last 12 months is $220 per person per stay.
“People are staying longer, they’re wanting to come back, and with the opening up of our borders again slowly, people are investing in campervans, and e-bikes, so the market has still got a lot of room for growth.”
Council received 1,622 submissions on the LTP, “far more than for any other recent Long Term Plan consultation”.
Council’s preferred “no frills budget” included a proposed average 4.79 per cent rates increase per year over 10 years.
If adopted, this would include a proposed average rates increase of 7.1 per cent for the 2021-22 year, dwindling to 2.4 per cent in 2027, and 2.9 per cent in 2030.
However, a second option adding “nice to have” projects, including a Thames sports precinct and a Totara Valley Rd services extension, would increase rates to an average 9.34 per cent per year over 10 years.
Council will deliberate on the LTP on June 1-2, and will formally adopt the plan on June 30.

By KELLEY TANTAU