Cathedral Cove track reinstatement work to begin

Damage to the access path at Cathedral Cove. Photo / Gary Hinds.

Work to reinstate walking access to Mautohe Cathedral Cove is underway as the Department of Conservation aims to reopen the popular track for summer 2024-25.

Minister of Conservation Tama Potaka today announced distribution of International Visitor Levy funding – including $5 million to build, open and maintain overland walking access to Cathedral Cove.

The track to the globally famous beach was extensively damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, leading to a decision to keep it closed until land had stabilised and an appropriate repair could be confirmed.

Tinaka Mearns, DOC’s Regional Director for Hauraki Waikato and Taranaki, says after assessment of several options, DOC is opting for a temporary walking access reinstatement solution which will see the track available to visitors for summer 2024/25.

“Last summer visitors surveyed rated the marine-based experience to Mautohe Cathedral Cove as one of the best offered to a DOC-managed site,” Tinaka says.

“Reinstating walking access enables DOC to further support local businesses and the community while working towards more sustainable and careful management of the site. This will be complimented with ongoing work, over the next 12-18 months, to develop a long-term visitor management solution.”

Tinaka says finding a way to traverse the worst landslide on the track has been a challenge. Undamaged sections of the track will be reconnected via a new boardwalk and steps across a section of land that is more stable than other potential reroutes.  Steps at the bottom of the track, where it reaches the beach, will also be rebuilt.

“We know the community is keen to see reinstatement occur as soon as possible, but we need to factor in ground conditions, weather, and tendering and procurement processes before physical work can begin,” she says.

As well as the physical work at site to reinstate walking access, DOC will be introducing visitor risk mitigations to ensure safety of people walking the track.

Those mitigations may include advising people not to use the track when weather or geotechnical-related risks are considered too high.

“A level of risk will always be present at this site – landslides and rockfalls will continue to be an ongoing feature of the landscape,” Tinaka says.

“Under-pinning the decision making and approaches we’re taking is the need to manage risk for the most prominent type of “day trip” visitor at Mautohe Cathedral Cove.”

The popular Grange Rd carpark in Hahei will remain closed while DOC works through the practicalities of public access to the reserve. The carpark received significant surface/foundation damage, slumping and cracking, through extreme weather events and heavy vehicle use. High level design and investment is required to mitigate these factors.

Tinaka says the reinstatement option chosen only presents a temporary walking access solution and may not last through extreme storm events like those which caused the damage and forced the closure – such as Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We will be doing some more work on a longer-term solution to develop a visitor management plan, and consultation with the community and stakeholders will be part of that work,” she says.

The planned visitor management work is supported by mana whenua Ngāti Hei, who previously voiced concerns about the high level of tourism impacting Mautohe Cathedral Cove and the risk to visitors.

Tinaka thanked stakeholders including Thames-Coromandel District Council, Destination Hauraki Coromandel and those who’ve contributed feedback to DOC’s recent consultation process on reinstatement options.

Tinaka says DOC understands the track closure has been a frustrating situation for local residents and businesses.

“We want to thank them for their patience. We’ve had to work through a complex set of overlapping issues to reach this point.”

Coromandel MP Scott Simpson.

Funding Confirmed to Reopen Walking Track at Cathedral Cove

Reopening the walking track at Cathedral Cove will be a significant boost for the entire Coromandel Peninsula, says National MP for Coromandel Scott Simpson.
“I’m delighted that Conservation Minister Tama Potaka has underpinned his intention to get the walking track at Cathedral Cove reopened by this coming summer.”

“As part of a wider funding package, the Department of Conservation has been allocated $5m to plan, build, reopen and maintain an overland track as part of continued recovery work from Cyclone Gabrielle damage.

“This funding is supported by the International Visitor Levy and ensures that New Zealanders, as well as tourists, can experience our natural beauty.

“While water access to Cathedral Cove has remained available, it’s been over 17 months since the walking track was closed. This closure has been felt by local businesses who have dealt with lower visitor numbers and the uncertainty surrounding the track’s future.

“Today’s news should give them confidence that there is plan and budget to get this iconic destination fully reopened for the summer.

“Like everyone, I’m keenly anticipating the day that we will be able to walk to this awe-inspiring part of the Coromandel Peninsula again.”



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