Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 45, September 2001
Late in 2000 work commenced to redevelop both the Karangahake Reserve and Walkway with the Hauraki District Council and Department of Conservation working together to establish the region as one of New Zealand's prime tourist and recreation areas.
This project was brought about by the decommissioning of the Paeroa water supply pipeline which followed the course of the Waitawheta River from Dickey's Flat before going underground at the Karangahake Reserve. A new intake at the mouth of the Waitawheta River meant that the old pipes could be removed, enabling the Department of Conservation to upgrade the pipeline track, developing a 4 kilometre walking track. This had always been planned as the third walkway in the area.
It took eight months for the Huntly firm, Don Foster Construction, to excavate the Waitawheta River bed and lay 130 metres of plastic pipeline, leading to a new pump station in the Karangahake Reserve. The new pipeline was officially opened by the Mayor, Basil Morrison on 8 November 2000 and blessed by Ngati Tamatera, led by Tewi Nicholls.
Helicopters were used to remove the old pipeline and also to lift in new bridges and materials for the Walkway. Eight new bridges were installed as far as the Crown Mine stope, where the Waikato Department of Conservation Conservancy borders with the Bay of Plenty Conservancy. Plans were to provide access to both the Crown stope, about 1 kilometre up the Waitawheta River and the entrance to the Talisman Power House, deep in the Karangahake Mountain. The Crown, Woodstock and Talisman Batteries, the Crown Stope and Talisman Power House have all been earmarked as historically significant and the Department of Conservation hopes that, in future, there will be improved public access and preservation of these sites.
The Department of Conservation's commitment to this work put pressure on the Hauraki District Council to bring forward its plans to upgrade the Karangahake Reserve and, in particular, to alter the suspension bridge which carried the pipeline, to provide pedestrian access between the Reserve and the Walkways. Plans also included the provision of a new shelter area, a new information area, new toilets and improved car parking and vehicle access. Metal roads were replaced with sealed and kerbed roads.
The toilets were constructed in the style of an old miner's cottage and the bridge features staggered stone walls at the entrances. The upgraded Reserve has about 45 car parks, a bus bay and roundabout so that buses can turn around and head back to the Karangahake Hall car parks. The new information area was planned to outline the three main aspects of the area's history - pre-gold mining, gold mining and the more recent recreation and tourism aspect.
The Hauraki District Council considers that Karangahake is the showpiece of the area and, as such, it needs to be immaculate and well developed. Approximately 90,000 visitors use the Walkway each year and this number is increasing. The new Waitawheta Gorge walkway boasts some of the most spectacular scenery in the country.