Media Release: Busy time on Manawatu Gorge tracks

Several projects aimed at making Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge safer for visitors are due to begin in February.

Allanah Irvine, Manawatu Operations Manager for the Department of Conservation says contractors will reroute the 10km walking track, remove slumped material above the Big Slip and spruce up the Te Ara o Mahurangi mountain bike track.

“There is a lot happening in Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge right now. Unfortunately, the good weather that entices people to get outdoors is also the kind of weather we need for doing track work. We are doing our best to ensure the work doesn’t disrupt track users too much and the result will be a safer, better experience for Te Apiti visitors,” she says.

The re-alignment of a section of the main walking track is set to begin on 2 February.

This will re-route the track over a large slip that closed the eastern end of the track in September 2016. The work is expected to take 6-7 weeks, weather dependent. It is hoped that this will be completed in time for the ‘Manawatu Gorge Walking Festival’ and ‘Race to the Brewery’ events in March.

Ms Irvine says while the full 10km walking track cannot be completed until the re-route is finished, visitors can enjoy many other recreational opportunities available in the Gorge.

“Shorter loop walks at either end of the track are still accessible. The Tawa Loop Walk at the western end is a 4km circuit that takes walkers past the impressive Whatonga sculpture. Sentinel Lookout is roughly halfway, making it a good spot for people to turn around and return to the western car park.

“Down at the eastern end there is a short, stroller-friendly loop, which is close to a playground, toilets, and the Beyond the Bridge Café – so it’s a great destination for young families.”

It is also still possible to complete a longer one-way walk via the Upper Gorge Bridge track. This route is approximately 7.5km, which can be accessed from State Highway 3, near the Upper Gorge Bridge. A small gravel shoulder on the northern side of road, just west of the Upper Gorge Bridge, provides space for a few cars to park. The track begins on the other side of the road; walkers should use the underpass below the bridge to cross safely.

At the western end of the track, Higgins Contracting will be working to remove slumped material from above the Big Slip. Please be aware that heavy machinery will be crossing the walking track to access the site.

This work is scheduled to begin on 13 February and should be completed by the beginning of April.

The slip site is near the main Manawatu Gorge Track, which will remain open to walkers, however the track from the Whatonga sculpture to the ‘Big Slip Lookout’ will be closed for the duration of the work. Walkers should expect delays, and will need to exercise caution and be patient.

Te Ara o Mahurangi mountain bike track is also set to get a much-needed spruce up. Originally classified as a Grade 3 (intermediate level) track, sections have deteriorated making it more difficult to ride. Deep ruts have formed on the steep dropping corners, some up to 20cm deep.

Ms Irvine says, “Work to repair and realign the bike track is scheduled to begin in Autumn. The aim will be to make the track accessible to a wider range of riders. This work is being funded by the Te Apiti Manawatu Gorge Governance Group, and led by the Manawatu Mountain Bike Club who have an agreement to maintain the track. In the meantime, the track is open but it is best suited to more experienced riders.”

For more information, please visit the Palmerston North i-SITE or call DOC on (06) 3509700.