Ohakune-based iwi Ngāti Rangi has celebrated the turning of the first sod, kari ana te whenua, to mark the start of construction on their 21km Te Ara Mangawhero eco-tourism hiking/cycling trail connecting Tūroa and Ohakune on Mount Ruapehu.
When completed, Te Ara Mangawhero will form part of Ngā Ara Tuhono (Mountains to Sea trail) one of the 22 Great Rides across New Zealand.
The honour of breaking ground for the much-awaited trail went to 98-year-old Laurie Weller who worked on the historic Bennett and Punch forestry tramline which will form the base for much of Te Ara Mangawhero.
Ruapehu District Council Mayor, Weston Kirton acknowledged the pioneering work of people like Laurie and the many people and organisations who had worked tirelessly over many years to get the project off the ground.
“Since the original idea for a hiking/cycling trail between Tūroa and Ohakune it has been a long, and at times difficult journey, for everyone who believed in what Te Ara Mangawhero could deliver for Ngāti Rangi and the local community,” he said.
“That we are gathered to celebrate the project getting underway is a testament to the hard mahi of a lot of people who have wanted to see Te Ara Mangawhero succeed.
“Council has been very happy to be able to support Ngāti Rangi in undertaking of this project which represents a significant milestone for their aspirations as tangata tiaki of this area.”
He said the trail not only promises to be a magnificent outdoor adventure, but will provide a wide range of economic, environmental, social, and cultural benefits and legacy for the future.
“Council is excited to support Ngāti Rangi as they undertake the building of Te Ara Mangawhero, a part of their wider vision for the future,” he said.