Four hundred and sixty cubic metres of track metal will fall from the sky in the Manawatu Gorge over the next few weeks, in a mission to upgrade the popular 10 kilometre walking track.

Date:  14 January 2009

During the coming weeks, helicopters will fly track metal in to 58 dump sites alongside the Manawatu Gorge Track. The Department of Conservation will cart and spread the track metal between dump sites with a powered barrow operated by a team of DOC rangers, temporary summer staff and volunteers. The first flying sessions will take place this week.

The track will remain open while this work is carried out, though walkers may be asked to wait until the way is clear while the load is being dropped.

Dropping a load of metal.
Dropping a load of metal

DOC staff will be on-site to let walkers know when they will need to stop, but delays will be short. “It will only take a few minutes for the helicopter to drop its load, then it’ll be safe for people to carry on” DOC Ranger Tim Groenendijk explains, “The most people will have to wait will probably be about 5 minutes”.

The upgrade includes re-alignment of some of the steeper sections, installing steps, safety barriers and lookout structures, re-surfacing the track and installing interpretation boards and signs. It is part of a ten year project to protect and enhance the biodiversity and recreational opportunities in the gorge. Several agencies are involved with this project, including Horizons Regional Council, Transit NZ, On Track, Palmerston North City Council, Tararua District Council, the Ashhurst community and local iwi.

View from Manawatu Gorge Track.
View from Manawatu Gorge Track

Around 15 000 people don their walking shoes each year to experience the beauty and tranquillity of one of our nearest natural treasures. Located approximately 12 km east of Palmerston North, the Manawatu Gorge track passes through a unique landscape of steep greywacke ranges covered in native vegetation. Margaret Metcalfe, Community Relations Programme Manager for DOC, encourages people to get out and explore the area for themselves. “For those that haven’t experienced the reserve, this summer offers a rare opportunity to walk the gorgeous gorge and witness progress of the track improvement project”. Not everyone is confident to go it alone so, for the less intrepid, she suggests taking the opportunity for a guided walk this Saturday. “Forest and Bird have made this the first trip of the “Seven Wonders of the Manawatu” summer nature programme”, she said, “Further information about the local walking opportunities and bookings for the guided trips can be made through the I-Site in The Square”.

The first track in the Manawatu Gorge was put in by an enthusiastic local, Buck Alley, in around 1984. The Department of Lands and Survey, which at the time managed the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve, never formalised the track other than a short loop by the car park at the Ballance end. However the public continued to use the track through to Ashhurst which kept it open.

In 1989 the newly established Department of Conservation, became the agency responsible for managing the Manawatu Gorge Scenic Reserve, and a decision was made to upgrade the main track from one end of the gorge to the other. The track was officially opened around 1995 but it still required a lot of further work with a number of creek crossings that still needed to be bridged. This final stage of upgrade is due to be complete by spring this year.


Manawatu Gorge Track


Margaret Metcalfe

Manawatu Base
Phone:   +64 6 350 9700
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   717 Tremaine Avenue
Palmerston North 4414
Postal Address:   Private Bag 11010
Palmerston North 4442
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