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Tracking the Highway

  • 05 Sep 2008

Transit New Zealand will work with Te Araroa Waikato Trust to put an 8-kilometre track alongside the new Mercer-Longswamp Fourlaning project.

Project manager Erik van der Wel told Waikato Trust's Raewyn Mackenzie by letter of August 9 that he'd asked the main engineering consultant, John Kerr, to examine a suitable route. As a first step, Kerr's engineers will bring in a safety audit.

Transit New Zealand contractors are already at work on the $75 million Mercer- Longswamp Fourlaning - a 10-kilometre expressway linking Mercer to Meremere and beyond that to Hampton Downs Road. The project eliminates a notorious accident blackspot south of the old thermal power station at Meremere, and made the news last December as Transit halted work to discuss with Ngati Naho, protection for a taniwha lair in the river shallows.

Mackenzie and Auckland Regional Trust member Ron King rolled out the Transit maps with van der Wel and Kerr last month, then walked the proposed route with them. They planned a start at Hall Road, just inland of the Mercer interchange. By agreement with Transit and Franklin District Council, Te Araroa - nicknamed Byway One at this conjunction with the roading system - would then run on high ground inland of the Highway One extension.

The north- and south-bound lanes of the expressway separate here - partly to preserve an historic British redoubt from the 1860s land war. Te Araroa's route has clear views down onto the redoubt. As it heads south, the proposed trail reaches Te Teoteo Pa, where a skirmish between Waikato Maori and British troopers killed 30 in 1863. It then links to DoC's Whangamarino walkway, drops 50 metres to cross the Whangamarino Stream on a flood control gate, then crosses beneath two Whangamarino bridges - the new concrete two-laner, for southbound traffic, and the old SH1 two-laner for north-bound traffic.

It then heads south on the riverbank, parallel with the expressway, but with three pinchpoints - one as walkers emerge from under the old Whangamarino bridge, one at the Meremere thermal station's outlet pipe, and another just 75 metres south of there, above the taniwha lair. At these points walkers are within 9 metres of the expressway's safety rail, and by Transit's standards should be screened from traffic.

The track then diverges to meet Dragway Road and joins with the existing Te Araroa track, 30 kilometres through to Huntly.

The screens and the Whangamarino bridge underpasses may make this section expensive. Once the route is clear, Te Araroa Trust intends negotiating with Transfund for possible funding help, but may need an alliance with regional and local authorities to do so.

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