When you chat to people about why they’re involved with cycle advocacy, everyone has their own story about imagining a bikeable future. So it is with a savvy and determined group of advocates in Waipu. Five years ago, two young girls at Waipu Primary School – Emily Stolwerk and Ceili Lea – came up with a brilliantly simple idea: they just wanted to be able to ride their bikes between Waipu Town and Waipu Cove, a distance of about 10km.
(The fact that kids have to ask for safe places to ride their bikes is a poignant reminder that streets everywhere, including the ones we live on, have slowly become hostile spaces, particularly for our tamariki.)
So the school children wrote to the Whangarei District Council asking for a safe route. A terrific group of locals realised that the local community needed to get into gear to make things happen, and the Waipu Cove Cycle and Walkway Trust was formed to deliver the project.
If you know anything about the founders of Waipu, you know they were determined, hardworking and resourceful people. That DNA has leaked down through the generations. Maybe it’s old-fashioned values that we don’t see as much in Auckland these days, but just an hour’s drive north in a car, that’s how it works: if you want something done, you get everyone organised, and the whole community chips in and you get it built.
As the trust says, ‘It has taken five years of negotiations with landowners, making funding applications, community fundraising activities, submissions to the Whangarei District Council’s annual and long term plans, public consultations, meetings with Council staff, approaches to local businesses for support, and planning and design work carried out by trustees with expertise in engineering and contracting.’ Whew. And it’s all paid off handsomely.
On the 14th August 2016, the first 2.5km section was opened, from the edge of Waipu Town across Waionehu Stream to Riverside Place – and it is a triumph. The original young visionaries Emily and Ceili were there to cut the ribbon with Whangarei’s Mayor Sheryl Mae. Hundreds of people turned out to enjoy a moving karakia and formal speeches acknowledging this massive community achievement.
Tim Manning, the Trust Chairman, reckons the first section is a million-dollar asset. The Trust has raised over $250,000 and they still have a decent hunk of that left to put toward the next stages. There have been over 200 donations to the trust, including land, materials, services, expertise and money (a few are listed here).
Much of the first stage runs along land owned by Don and Melanie Mitchell, who granted an easement over their private land. The Murray family, who own Northland Steel Products, agreed to a boundary adjustment on their land for the start of the trail. Many other locals and business have been incredibly generous, donating materials and hands-on services to physically build the trail.
It may not be Auckland’s flashy pink path – but it is a beautiful silvery trail alongside green pastures, and it’s an incredible first phase for what will become an iconic ride. It’s so inspirational to see what can be achieved when a community pulls together to get a project delivered. In contrast to Auckland, where it can feel more difficult to have a crack and we increasingly seem to hide behind our high fences, it was humbling to see the amazing community spirit that’s generated when people share a dream and muck in together to achieve it. The scale and professionalism across the length of the finished path is a credit to everyone involved.
Check out the Trust’s website here – any help you can give them, they’d appreciate it – and they’re a group that can definitely make any dollar you donate go a very long way. Two and a half kilometres to start with, and more to come!