Overview and History
Te Araroa - New Zealand's Trail - is a continuous 3,000 km walking track from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
Te Araroa’s boundaries are the natural boundaries of New Zealand itself. It starts and is brought to a natural halt against the sea. En route it explores New Zealand’s tombolos, its volcanoes, its range and mountain uplift, its rivers, lakes and valleys. Successful long trails overseas generally have a geographic and geological unity. Te Araroa’s variety is underpinned by the mightiest geology of all – tectonic plate subduction. When walking New Zealand, you are walking also the Pacific Plate boundary or – at least sometimes – along the Rim of Fire.
The long trail concept in New Zealand has a venerable history. In 1975 just such a “scenic trail” based on the Pennine Way, was the founding idea of the NZ Walkways Commission, which carried the long-trail torch briefly, but found it too difficult. The Department of Conservation (DOC) put the same goal into its Walkways Policy of 1995. As part of that policy, DOC also proposed giving high priority to countryside tracks traversing private land. DOC did not have the budgets, or the co-operation of Regional Authorities (RAs) or Territorial Local Authorities (TLAs) to achieve either goal.
Te Araroa Trust (TAT) and its eight regional trusts have achieved what the official bodies could not. RAs and TLAs the length of New Zealand are engaged with Te Araroa, and TAT is now a leading influence in their local and regional walking and cycling strategies. The New Zealand public is also a trail partner. For years our organisation has had a hard battle for funds, and our survival, and lately our flourishing, is due to the many volunteers who have kept the dream alive, and advancing.
1975 – The New Zealand Walkways Commission is formed. One of its goals is a New Zealand-long “scenic” trail.
1983/84 – A NZ Taranaki man Rex Hendry did a wilderness walk that explored a possible route for a long NZ trail.
1987 – The New Zealand Walkways Commission is folded into the Department of Conservation without having achieved a long trail.
1994 – Te Araroa Trust is formed after a newspaper article by Geoff Chapple advocating a New Zealand-long trail.
1995 – First trail Kerikeri-Waitangi opened by then Prime Minister Jim Bolger.
1997 – Te Araroa Trust maps a North Island route in consultation with local and regional councils en route, and DoC Conservancies.
1998 – Geoff Chapple walks the North Island route to prove viability, to test land-owner response, to raise funds, and heighten the project’s profile. He writes one of the first web-logs which becomes popular, and the trail idea begins to take hold.
1999 – Te Araroa Trust gets a Millennium grant, and hires a construction manager and work teams for its first linking track down the Waikato River.
2002 – Te Araroa Trust maps the South Island trail, again with extensive consultation, and Geoff Chapple walks the trail, and tests land-owner responses en route.
Te Araroa Trust signs an MoU with the Department of Conservation under which DOC agrees to assist Te Araroa Trust with a continuous tramping corridor east of the Southern Alps.
The Mayors Taskforce, led by Christchurch mayor Garry Moore adopts Te Araroa as a “priority project.” Over 20 councils en route begin to co-operate.
2003 – Te Araroa - The New Zealand Trail a book published on the trail, wins ‘Environment category’ Montana book award.
Regional Te Araroa Trusts established to co-ordinate volunteer effort. Eight regional trusts in total, including Southland, Otago, Canterbury/WestCoast.
Te Araroa is not open, but walkers begin to do it anyway – up to 10 a year, using roads as by-passes where necessary.
2006 – New Te Araroa tracks now total over 400km. The links through to legal thoroughfares on the coast and river margins, make over 80% of the route walkable, including a 15% back-road component. Local authorities begin to put Te Araroa into district plans and regional authorities include it in regional walking strategies. Crown Tenure Review results extend the SI trail.
2007 – DOC is voted $3.8 million to put in Te Araroa across public estate – previously Te Araroa had financed such tracks.Te Araroa Trust, its eight regional trusts, with co-operation from territorial local authorities and regional authorities continue to develop all sections outside the public estate – two thirds of the distance.
2008 – New track openings and access to previously inaccessible legal thoroughfare makes over 90% of the trail walkable, including the road component which has now been shrunk to 13.5%. Not all of that 90% is signed - just another job to be done.Te Araroa Trust plans for an opening at the end of 2011.
2011 - Te Araroa officially opened by the Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae on 3 December 2011. The publication Te Araroa: A Walking Guide to New Zealand's Long Trail is released.
2012 - Geoff Chapple stands down as CEO of Te Araroa Trust, and is subsequently honoured with an ONZM in the Queens Birthday Honours. Rob Wakelin assumes the role of CEO.
2014 - Te Araroa Trust opens the Puhoi Track, a track specifically built for day-walkers to experience Te Araroa.
2015 - Te Araroa Trust receives a Walking Access Award from the New Zealand Walking Access Commission, in recognition of what they have achived in opening up many locations for public walking access.
2015 - Te Araroa Trust and DOC agree a further $1.6million funding to conclude the construction programme over the next two years.
2016 - Te Araroa Trust opens the Paekakariki Escarpment Track, a $1.4million project between Paekakariki and Pukerua Bay, another track specifically aimed at day-walkers
2018 - More than 1000 thru walkers complete the Trail
2019 - Te Araroa features on New Zealand Stamps to celebrate the Trail as a national icon