photo credit: Jules Anderson
Due for completion late 2022, this extraordinary West Coast adventure will journey along near the coastline between Westport and Charleston, following in the footsteps of the ancient Māori and the 1860’s gold miners. The Pūwaha Section of the Kawatiri Coastal Trail from Westport to Carters Beach was the first of nine sections to be built, opening to the public in December 2020.
The Kawatiri Coastal Trail Route
The 55 km, Grade 2 walking and cycling heritage Trail will connect the communities of Carters Beach, Cape Foulwind and Tauranga Bay along the coast from Westport to Charleston. The area’s unique geology, diverse ecology, rich mining history and vast seascapes will make it one of New Zealand’s finest day or multi-day rides.
Cyclists and walkers will be provided with an invigorating experience along a truly spectacular coastline. On the Pūwaha Section with its exceptional ecology, early Māori trading history and significant archaeological sites, visitors to the Trail immerse in the district’s abundant cultural and natural heritage.
What can visitors expect?
The spectacular all seasons Trail can be ridden in either direction, with the option to slow down the pace and split into shorter rides taking in major highlights along the way. Interpretation Panels along the route will provide information on the fascinating ecological and historical values.
Māori history in the area dates back to the early 1300s, when in their search for Pounamu, they formed the Tai Poutini Pounamu Trail. The Kawatiri Coastal Trail will showcase an important historic site for Māori, where archaeological work has shown occupation dated around 1350.
The family friendly cycle trail will be suitable for most ages, fitness and abilities. When the entire trail is completed it will have the convenience of accommodation and eateries along the way. Multiple access points, bike hire, luggage transfers and shuttle options will enable visitors to incorporate overnight stops.
Who will use the Trail?
The Trail will open in stages, with Westport and Carters Beach residents the first to use the trail for shopping, commuting and recreation, encouraging friends and family to visit and appreciate the Trail and surrounding area. It is envisaged that domestic visitors on a 2-4 day short break will enjoy the trail.
Visitors will include Families, 50+ and active Kiwis from Canterbury, Nelson and the lower North Island, and at a later date, overseas visitors from Australia, the United Kingdom and Europe. The Trail is forecast to attract 8,200 users in its first full year, increasing to 16,600 after 10 years.
The Kawatiri Coastal Trail will complement existing and proposed cycle trails in Buller, including the Kawatiri River Trail and Kawatiri Beach Reserve. It will also contribute to the growing network of trails on the West Coast, such as the Old Ghost Road and West Coast Wilderness Trail. Both are world-class cycle trails and part of the Ngā Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail Network.
What benefits will be seen once the Trail is built?
The Trail, and the visitors it attracts, will provide sustainable development opportunities for local people and communities. There will be social, health and cultural benefits to communities and financial benefits to the Buller District as visitors are encouraged to stay longer and spend more, building the West Coast’s reputation as a natural wilderness and cycle trail mecca.
The Kawatiri Coastal Trail will create a sustainable community asset for current and future generations, creating jobs at all phases – design, construction, and maintenance. It will increase visitor spend, support economic activity, link several communities, and encourage and provide better access to local activities between Westport and Charleston.
The estimated present value of total benefits to the region over the first 12 years is $18.2 million, with $79.1 million additional spending from outside the region over the first 10 years. There will be 30 jobs created in the construction period, and 100 jobs created in support of the trail after 10 years. With eight more Sections to be built by June 2022, additional factors such as on-going maintenance and funding are never far from mind.
A hopeful future
The Trail is being built to The New Zealand Cycle Trail Guidelines for a Grade 2 track, and is aligned to the Ngā Haerenga Great Rides primary objectives of creating jobs, building a high quality tourism asset and maximising the range of complementary benefits that the cycle trail network provides to a wide range of New Zealanders. Once complete it is hoped the Kawatiri Cycle Trail will receive Great Ride Status.