Summer visitors to Hahei and Cathedral Cove can enjoy the cultural history of several significant sites and other coastal locations with the opening of new and improved walking tracks.
The Department of Conservation (DOC), working with mana whenua Ngāti Hei and other stakeholders, has created new walking experiences for visitors to explore new locations and understand the history of the area.
Recent research shows visiting cultural or historic heritage sites is the fourth most popular outdoor experience for Kiwis, with 66% of New Zealanders keen to connect with their history.
DOC’s Regional Director for Hauraki-Waikato-Taranaki, Tinaka Mearns says the alternative visitor options have been created near Cathedral Cove to ensure visitors to Coromandel can experience the beauty of the coastline and reflect on its cultural heritage.
“The work done includes improvements to existing tracks, and new routes to sites considered significant to Ngāti Hei,” she said.
“The cultural sites are historic pa – Hereheretaura and Te Pare – used by Ngati Hei during their long presence in the area.
“Hereheretaura and Te Pare were defensive pa used by Ngati Hei during their conflicts with other iwi in pre-colonial times.”
Tiaki Rangers employed by DOC will be stationed at various access points to the Cathedral Cove track network ready to share information with visitors on other nearby locations they can visit – including the heritage sites and their stories.
These include the public conservation land at the top of Grange Rd, where visitors can enjoy sweeping views of Mercury Bay and seating and picnic spots. Visitors will need to park vehicles in Hahei and walk up Grange Road to the viewing locations.
Work has also been completed to add a loop track to McHand’s Lookout. The loop track crosses private property, and connects to Lees Road and DOC land to the north of Cathedral Cove. This look-out – also giving expansive views over Mercury Bay – forms part of a 90-minute walk from the Lees Rd carpark.
Kaumatua Joe Davis says Ngāti Hei are aware of the significance of many taonga sites within the area – and emphasised the iwi understand and appreciate the tourism value the sites have for the wider Coromandel community and district economy.
“Ngāti Hei are wanting to share our stories of our whenua and share the burden on our taonga sites. There are other beautiful sites that can help with this for this summer,” he said.
“We as an iwi are in total support of DOC’s strategy and we are working closely with them for the benefit of all.
“Mother nature (Papatuanuku) does not need to fit in with us, we need to start trying to fit in with her and give her the respect she deserves which has been absent until now.”
DOC and Ngāti Hei are urging people not to use the walking track to Cathedral Cove – which they say is not safe and will not be reinstated for summer 2023-24. Visitors should not progress past barriers restricting access.
“Visiting Cathedral Cove will continue to be a marine-based experience this summer, with several commercial operators offering services including brief stays on the beach. International marketing of the site has focussed on the marine-based experience, which has been well-received.”
“Anyone visiting the cove is strongly urged to familiarise themselves with the risk of rockfall and debris – including from the cove’s rock arch,” DOC said in a statement.