The Tale of the Trail

Alan McKenzie writes about the the story of the development of the coastal trail from Waipu Cove south to Ding Bay. Leaflets about the trail from the Museum or Camp Waipu Cove.
Story first printed in the Bream Bay News November 2011

Waipu Coastal TrailWaipu began in 1853 when a Scotish Presbyterian group of migrants were offered a piece of land to settle that Maori regarded as ‘no mans land’ and others did not want. Perhaps that is why the name Waipu (foul water or red water came about) – another story.

You could sail up the river to McLean’s bridge in a scow, then, but not now. Kauri bush covered much of the low, flat, swampy land, slowly and laboriously cleared for grazing and crops. Cove Road connected the township, established a little inland, with the coastal beaches,The Cove, Ding Bay, to Langs Beach and beyond.

Pancake Rocks, Waipu Coastal Trail

Pancake Rocks, Waipu Coastal Trail

Some say the scow were used for smuggling whiskey etc into the growing community as well as getting cream from the farms. The coastal land between the beaches too was grazed and some retained the bush. Although the road was still gravel up till the1980s, subdivision into sections began in the 1960s, and there was a walking track along the coastal margin, for fishing off the rocks etc. Elderly residents recalled the track.

The McKenzie family bought two sections of bush on Cove Road hill, from the Trail family with the intention of ultimately building a holiday retreat . The four children soon discovered the delights of camping and the trail north to the Cove shops, along the rocky shore. The 1980s boomed and further subdivisions were available. We realized the value of our native coastal bush remnant. When learning of the QE II Open Space Trust [another story] we arranged for the property to be placed under the Trust.

This meant management of the bush with control of weeds and pests; available to the public on request, regular inspection ; help with fencing [if required] and rates relief. Most important of all from our point of view, the Act of Parliament, prevented the property from further subdivision or clearance. Weed control for the family meant control too of the adjacent Esplanade Reserve.

Out of sight and out of mind , it contained many of the weeds the Council regarded as noxious, and they provided some control materials . Living permanently on the property from 1995, we learned of the almost unique coastal sedimentary limestone rocks from a geologist, Duncan Dow who owned a QE II bush clad property on Bream Tail. Another Waipu family, Phil and Ros Banbury bought a grazed coastal section, built a beautiful home near a rocky beach, planted 10,000 native trees on the hills, covenanted under QE II and with an esplanade reserve and encouraged our concept of re –establishing public access to the coastal margin.

The wise decision of the early migrants to New Zealand to establish an esplanade reserve [aka Queens Chain] along all coasts and water margins, now became very significant. The public reserve was ironically being gradually excluded from view and access to the public. Cove Road is now sealed. On foot exploration of the full length of the coastline revealed that the 20m width of legislation and maps did not [and still does not ] correspond to the situation on the ground. Even an aerial set of photos did not persuade the Council or surveyors to re- examine the boundaries made in 1952 . Erosion was regarded as the cause of the discrepancy — 50 years on basalt and marble like limestone rock taking away 10m of coast !!??

Plans show a paper road 10m wide giving access to the esplanade from Cove Road labeled ‘Access Strip’, but it has a formidable fence across it, an extension of the fence of an adjoining private bush clad property! Council would not remove it – for injured public could sue the Council. The boundaries were not clear and the fence was erected, according to the property owner, with Council approval.

A circular letter to coastal properties in 2003 returned the expected mixed response. Those south of the Cove road access strip, with bush and holiday homes, were opposed because of the loss of privacy and exposure to theft’ potential. The northern more open grazed section where the reserve was clear and as wide as the maps indicated were mostly in agreement with the concept.

Discussions now began with the members of the Lions Club, The Waipu Residents and Ratepayers, Forest and Bird and Bream Bay Coastal Care.

In 2007 the Manager of the Parks and Reserves section of Whangarei District Council was invited to walk the coastal margin and see the problems. Paul MacDonald said he would cooperate with any effort, but told us because of the existence of two properties with riparian rights and the difficult geology of parts of the route, Council could not fund or approve a formal walkway.

The concept of re-establishing a coastal margin trail was submitted to the Waipu Lions Club as a project. None had ever been along the coastal margin. Members and friends who came on the planned walk as far as the McKenzie bush quickly saw the potential and the project was readily accepted, but were they fully aware of the difficulties of making and maintenance of a track or trail? An informal trail appealed. One of the owners of land with riparian rights came on the walk and had no objections to the plan.

Along with other coastal land owners, Andre Labonté, the other with riparian rights, agreed that if there were minimal disturbance of the coastal terrain and no formal ‘walkway’, the project would be acceptable. He also asked that notices informing the public of the land status were present. His boundary fences already had well used stiles and the grazed land had a track through the long grass. His generosity has enabled access to all the remaining Esplanade Reserve from The Cove to Ding Bay and Langs Beach.

Public access cannot be denied or obstructed , nor built on, but the ‘reserve’ can be used by the adjacent property owner. The discrepancy of width of the Esplanade Reserve and hence the seaward boundary of the private property could not be resolved until Councillor Shelley Deeming walked the coastal margin. She saw the problem and the fence and gate erected on the wrong side of an existing survey peg!. She advised that a submission to the Council be made requesting resurveying of the disputed sections and the public access strip. The right person in the right place at the right time !

The Council allotted $59,000 for the resurvey. The new white pegs with a pink painted steel post, were now easily found in the bush. A narrow [not 20m] esplanade reserve was established. The fence could now come down and Lions members could extend and blaze a new trail knowing they were on public land. In principle, the trail has followed as close as possible to the coastal margin with the benefit of many sea views. Some of those previously opposing, who could now walk from the access strip to Waipu Cove have expressed a positive change of view.

The Waipu Heritage Museum have designed and contributed an excellent brochure for visitors and locals to follow the completed northern section of The Trail. The advice regarding terrain and weather should be heeded.

The final southern section from the access strip to Ding Bay, is the most demanding and exciting and is currently being planned. The bush is dense, some of the coastal rocks have to be scrambled over, but are not too difficult, one slab shows grooves that resemble those on the Wairere Boulders and may be of similar origin. They are well above high tide. Other portions are steep but no problem for the fit and agile. This section too requires minimal disturbance of the landscape and has to be taken at your own risk. Several sets of privately constructed steps are crossed by the trail. Exit can only be made at Ding Bay or the Access Strip to Cove Road. Please Respect private property.

2011 /2012 will see this section developed for the public and will complete the project. The Waipu public own the trail. Those who use it are invited to help with its maintenance and /or report storm damage, fallen trees etc. A fear expressed by property owners that litter would be a serious problem has not, to date, been realised.

Leave only footprints

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