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Sections along the Hauraki Rail Trail were severely damaged after Cyclone Gabrielle. File Photo: SUPPLIED

Rail trail repairs could be ‘seven figures’

Parts of the Ohinemuri River that runs through the Karangahake Gorge reached a height of 7.11 metres during Cyclone Gabrielle, as opposed to the normal river level of 0.8m, Hauraki Rail Trail chief executive Diane Drummond said.
The impact on sections of the popular tourist attraction had been “soul destroying”, but the charitable trust was now “working hard” to rectify the damage.
Cyclone Gabrielle hit the Thames Valley and surrounding areas in the early morning hours of February 14 and caused the floodgates at Criterion Bridge, Paeroa, to be used for the first time since 2018.
Diane told The Profile that the hardest hit spot along the 160km trail was Section C, Paeroa to Waihī; most remarkably, the Waikino to Waihī leg.
A section of the trail just past the Goldfields Railway in Waikino had slipped completely.

“That was a major failure of the trail,” Diane said, “but the good thing is, the majority of the resilience works that we did last year, where we concreted, held up, but everything we put a natural surface on – what we call Map 20 – failed.”
To add insult to injury, the trust had just finished paying off the bill for works repairing the last storm damage in January.
“We know we don’t want to concrete the whole trail, that’s not ever our intention, but we do have to sure-up some of these areas that are really vulnerable,” she said.
“The scale of Cyclone Gabrielle was so large, and we’re not the only cycle trail damaged.”
Diane said the Waikato River Trails, as well as trails in Hawkes Bay, had also suffered major damage from the storm, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment was working with all three to try and source funding for remedial works.
“The reality is that it’s a big job,” she said, “and we might not be able to put the resilience works in that we necessarily like. But at the end of the day, yes, we’ve got damage, but we’re not in the same situation as Hawkes Bay where they’re pulling animals out of fences… so we’re trying to be optimistic.”
Diane said she “can’t even begin” to surmise the cost to repair the storm damage, but it could be in the seven-figures.
The trust was working “very closely” with MBIE and its council partners to rehabilitate the trail after the severe impacts of the cyclone.
“Moving water is very, very destructive, but the good thing is we are engaging with volunteer groups to help with the clean up and are starting some immediate but minor remedial works,” she said.
There is no timeframe for when the Waikino-Waihī section of the trail will reopen, but Diane is encouraging riders to utilise the Goldfields Railway and continue onwards to support businesses in Waihī.
“This is normally the time of year where businesses make money, and this sort of impact on the trail has a direct effect, so we’re working as hard as we can.”
DETAILS: Goldfields Railway is in operation from Thursday to Sunday. To keep an eye on trail updates, find Hauraki Rail Trail on Facebook.