Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 54, September 2010
(Compiled from Waihi Walkways Newsletter No. 15.)
Late in 1998 a group of 10 Waihi people gathered together to explore the potential for a community organisation to gather and collate information on existing and potential walking routes, and to promote and create more walking routes to link the district.
A comprehensive report on the potential routes; and the challenges, benefits, and estimated costing was compiled based on ground surveys and investigations.
The group found that walking routes throughout the district are of course no recent events—no doubt moa had their routes and, maybe, the dinosaurs before that! Maori routes traversed the landscape for hundreds of years.
When Samual Marsden journeyed with his Maori hosts through the Karangahake Gorge and Waihi Plains in 1820 he wrote of his experiences in the district, describing the route, the landscape and the daily events.
Many routes throughout the district were created in the times of foot and horse travel and public land roadways and river reserves were created for the community in perpetuity. Some of those old routes are used today by those who like to reconnect with the bush and bird and savour our special natural landscapes.
Tessa Mackenzie, who facilitated the initial group process, and became chairperson when the Waihi Walkways Association was incorporated on July 17, 2000, says:
"The shared passion and intention for development of freely accessible walking tracks by those who shared the initial vision of a project that enhanced community wellbeing on many levels has been, and will continue to be, realised.
"Many people have participated over time to drive the sustainability of Waihi's walkway development. However special acknowledgement must go to Eric Lens and Ruth Ordish for it is their tenacity that has ensured Waihi's walkways, and the historical narrative attached to them, becomes a taonga for future generations. Congratulations to all those who have been part of this living, growing, project's journey to reach this 10-year milestone."
The First Walkway
As Mill (or Eastern) Stream walkway, Clarke Street to Morgan Park, was designed it became apparent that environmental rehabilitation was essential. This area of land, under the control of the Department of Conservation, contained domestic and industrial rubbish, horses were grazed, native plants were few and pest plants such as blackberry, honeysuckle and privet were abundant.
Eric Lens and Andrew Jenks were instrumental in the design and creation of this first walkway. Eric recalls: "We started out with this route thinking this was just rough public land, to be traversed from here to there.
"But this was a special journey . . . our increased understanding of the fascinating history of Mill Stream area, and its part in the mining story of Union Hill, has proved to be challenging and rewarding. We now understand much more about the heritage content and value of this area."
The Department on Conservation then, and now, provide ongoing support and encouragement. The Mill Stream walkway has become a walking delight.
Current chairperson, Carol Speir, sees the Mill Stream walkway as a treat. "Ferns and bush, stream cascades, open grassed areas to enjoy and the exciting bamboo grove . . . this walk is a treasure for future generations."
The Riverbank Terrace walkway is on the right bank of the Ohinemuri River, downstream from the Coronation Bridge (on SH2). This walkway has evolved over time to a delightful riverside walk with a rural flavour and is graced by stunning mature deciduous trees with lovely autumn colours.
The river bank has been fenced off from stock and on the left bank a riparian re-vegetation initiative undertaken. The H.E.L.P. team, with the aid of many volunteers and school children, planted appropriate native trees. Today this bank is well vegetated; providing protection for the river and the river organisms through shading and stabilising of the riverbank.
Coffey's walkway, along the right bank of the Ohinemuri River from Rosemont Road to Wellington Street, is also developing into a peaceful walk. Passing by the old rail bridge piers provides an opportunity to reflect on the changes in the district over such a short space of time.
The Silverton Walkway continues the network along the right bank of the Ohinemuri River from Wellington Street to Victoria Street. This route is in the development stages and will enable the Waihi community to view Waihi's oldest surviving battery site, known first as the Martha, then the Silverton and then the Union Battery.
Many volunteer skills, expertise and hours have been contributed since the inception of the Waihi Walkways Association.
"The last three years, in particular, has seen a staunch and dedicated group of volunteers on one or more sites nearly every week. Planting, weeding, mowing, clearing, pest control, and more weeding. Mulching, pest and plant control, and more—step by step the environment is benefiting from these efforts, and the walking experience is a delight as we make a positive impact. The job satisfaction is enormous and we have fun!" says Ruth Ordish, co-ordinator for the society.
The energetic committee continues to pay attention to the health and wellbeing of the society. Workshops, strategic reviews, planning and volunteer appreciation are all part of this robust community group.
"We hope our society will serve the Ohinemuri district for many years to come," says chairperson Carol.
In May, 2008, the association re-visited its Vision and Values and articulated our values more clearly. The association values are:
• Our village environment and uniqueness
• Our historic heritage
• Access to public land
• Our national heritage and work to recreate our• indigenous biodiversity
• The opportunity to create a legacy for the future
• Ethical and professional practice
• Education and learning opportunities.
Members of the association have assembled, re-typed, scanned and uploaded the Ohinemuri Regional History Journal to the website www.ohinemuri.org.nz. Researching these journals for information, anecdotes and stories of early European life in the district is now easy and rewarding, The association continues to get positive feedback
Waihi walkways continues to support the Union Hill predator control initiative of Wild About Waihi.
"We and the students at East School combine our efforts to give the small bird life a chance to breed and flourish. Thanks to Andrew Jenks, Wild about Waihi, for supplying all the bait stations and baits each year, says Ruth.
"Reducing pest plants is a major initiative we engage in. The public land is often inundated with pest plants.
And they are called pests for good reason! Not easily controlled or eliminated, these plants threaten to suffocate the trees and prevent natural regeneration of native species.
Waihi Walkways has its own website www.waihiwalkways.org.nz, which aims to share information especially relevant to the other groups working toward environmental restoration and/or honouring local heritage, It is regularly updated with current trends and press articles, and all the newsletters are available.