By Jan Simmons, Volunteering Coordinator
Fifteen members of the Cambridge Tramping club gathered at the Waiorongomai car park near Te Aroha early on a Saturday morning in June carrying loppers, saws and spades instead of their usual walking poles.
The first step was a volunteer health and safety briefing and task description of what was expected of them in assisting the Auckland Tramping Club with track work under the Kaimai Project. The project involves significant upgrades to tracks, huts and campsites throughout the Kaimai-Mamaku Conservation Park. This is all part of the New Zealand Outdoor Recreation Consortium's package of funding from the Community Conservation Partnership Fund administered by DOC.
In this instance, it wasn't just an upgrade but construction of a whole new section of track that was required, the purpose for kauri dieback. In its place, the new track passes through a magnificent forest featuring many terrestrial grown northern rata – perhaps one of the best examples of this type of forest in the upper North Island, and a worthy alternative to the kauri.
The track will provide a spectacular new day walk up and around the head of the valley and quick access to the Kaimai range further south. It will also facilitate access for possum trappers and hopefully, the establishment of a local community conservation group to care for this special forest.
According to Tony Walton, project leader from the Auckland Tramping Club, recreation clubs doing track work is nothing new. "Clubs always used to do it but over the years a certain amount of reluctance crept in from both sides of the fence – until now, when everyone has come to realise that a joint approach is needed to sustain and enhance our wonderful backcountry facilities for the long term". There is a good working relationship between DOC and the tramping groups with the end result being a win-win for both biodiversity and recreation.
For members of the Cambridge Tramping Club, working in small groups along the 4 km length of the new track gave as much pleasure as a day out tramping. "It was great to be able to give something back for all the enjoyment we have gained from years of tramping on the many tracks on public conservation land provided by DOC" said a club spokesperson.
So far, 350 volunteer hours have gone into the new track plus a similar number of hours on other tracks which tramping clubs have 'adopted' responsibility for. There is still another 120 km of Kaimai tramping tracks waiting for more volunteer groups to take an interest in. Is this something you could help with?
Contact the Kaimai Project if you'd like to get involved.