Sod turning marks start of construction
The traditional turning of the sod ceremony has taken place high in the Raukumara Forest Park, marking the start of construction on the $1.74 million Motu Trails cycleway project.
Low cloud shrouded the hill tops on the Motu Road at the head of the Pakihi valley yesterday, but the weather gods smiled on the gathering of 45 who attended a blessing by Ngai Tai and Whakatohea kaumatua mid morning yesterday.
The turning of the first sod was carried out by a four-man crew engaged to undertake the physical construction work in the lower Pakihi valley, a key focus of Prime Minister John Key’s $50 million New Zealand Cycle Trial project.
Job creation and economic development are the primary objectives of the national project and speakers at yesterday’s formal ceremony noted that it was good to see the first of the construction workforce now engaged and beginning the upgrade of the Pakihi valley track, which is being described as the jewel in the crown of the route which will link Matawai and Motu with Opotiki.
Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon and his Opotiki counterpart, John Forbes, spoke about their hopes for an economic boost for the region, as had been seen in other areas of New Zealand where cycle trails have already been established.
Gisborne’s Mayor said yesterday was a very significant occasion for all of those who had travelled up the Motu Road for the ceremony, and for the future of the Opotiki and Gisborne districts.
The Mayor quoted a 1911 report from the Poverty Bay Herald which told of an approach from a Mr F J Foster, who had approached the Opotiki County Council to complain about the Pakihi track.
That report told of attempts by several groups of men who were unacquainted with the terrain. One group became bushed and suffered great privation. Another group went into the area and was never seen again.
Others returned after unsuccessful attempts to reach Motu from Opotiki “their equilibrium upset.” The council responded by saying that there was no money in the budget for an upgrading at that time.
“I think that after 99 years, we have finally got the budget, thanks to the Ministry of Economic Development and I think that in a year’s time, people will not be getting lost and they will have much better experience than those recorded by Mr F J Foster.
“We are grateful to everyone’s contribution to this project and I wish the workmen well in their endeavours over the coming months. This project is all about job creation, but is not just a job for them. They have a connection to the whenua here and I know they have a passion for the job that lies ahead of them.
“Because of that they will do a fantastic job and we will end up with a facility that many people for generations to come will enjoy.”
Opotiki’s Mayor said that to have special places like the Motu area and the Pakihi valley more accessible to more people will be good for them, as well as being good for the region as a whole.
“I want to offer a special thanks to the tangata whenua for providing this ceremony, because it is important that we mark a major development like this with the appropriate blessings and karakia.”
Following the ceremony at Pakihi, a morning tea was hosted by the Motu community.
The Governance Group charged with overseeing the Motu Trails cycleway project – this involves representatives of the two councils, Whakatohea Maori Trust Board and Department of Conservation - then met at the local school for its monthly update of progress.