Hauraki Rail Trail Community Heroes

Published 2022-12-12

What do Hauraki's artists, schoolchildren and deerstalkers have in common? They're all doing their bit to make this Ngā Haerenga Great Ride of New Zealand better by the day!

Community and cycling come together on the Hauraki Rail Trail with a trifecta of terrific local projects enhancing the experience for locals and visitors.

Art for all on the Rail Trail

Thanks to local artists, three large sculptures can be seen by riders and walkers on the Thames to Kopu section of the Hauraki Rail Trail – Jandel on the Mandel by Ricks Terstappen, The Spheres by Mark Hayes, and Penny Farthing by Bruce Harper. They're the result of a competition organised by the Thames Public Art Trust (TPAT), which drew almost 50 entries from both established artists and amateurs.

The trust worked with volunteers to help bring the sculptures to life, some of which came to them as concept drawings or in model form. Trustee Rob Johnston says the art community welcomed a chance to enhance the trail while offering an opportunity to showcase local talent. ‘Some people using the trail might not go to an art gallery or sculpture park, so this project brings art to them,’ says Rob. ‘But there are benefits for artists too. Some of these artists might not get to display their artworks in a gallery. This project allows them that opportunity.’

Left to Right: Paul Silvester (Chair of TPAT), John McKeowen (artist) and Rob Johnston making Miners' Gates.

There are more artworks coming soon too. Poetic Directions, Interwoven and Miners’ Gates are close to installation, and two more are planned.

As well as support from volunteers, project stakeholders include KiwiRail, Thames–Coromandel District Council and Hauraki District Council, local iwi, Waka Kotahi and the Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust.

Read this article for more info on the sculpture project and the Thames Public Art Trust.

The Spheres by Mark Hayes, crafted from horseshoes.

Planting Trees for Survival

Hauraki's Great Ride will grow more bushy and beautiful thanks to Trees for Survival, the charitable trust that works with more than 150 schools and local communities across Aotearoa New Zealand to grow and plant native trees along waterways and environmentally vulnerable sites.

This year, schools from the region planted almost 3000 native trees and plants, providing shelter and a lasting legacy for trail users to enjoy. Species included Karamu/Coprosma robusta, Harakeke/Flax, Tī Kōuka/Cabbage Tree and Māhoe/Whiteywood – favourite food sources for native birds including tūī and kererū.

Tūī love to eat the nectar from flowering Harakeke (Matt Binns).

Trees for Survival’s education programme provides hands-on opportunities for schoolchildren to make a practical difference to their environments, and learn about conservation, revegetation, wetland restoration and creating habitats for native wildlife to thrive in. You can find out more about their wonderful work here.

If you would like to support the Hauraki Rail Trail Traps & Trees Programme, you can donate via the trail's Givealittle page.

Trapping on the Rail Trail

The Thames Valley Deerstalkers Association (TVDA) are also working hard to enhance habitats for native wildlife along the Great Ride. This group of keen outdoor enthusiasts and conservationists have been monitoring and maintaining trapping lines across the region since 2009, which now includes seven sites along the Hauraki Rail Trail, with more to come.

TVDA's volunteers have assembled and installed all of the traps, checking and rebaiting them at least fortnightly to target pests such as rats, stoats, weasels, ferrets and hedgehogs. The results have been terrific, with populations of birds, lizards, frogs and insects all thriving.

Thames Valley Deerstalkers trapping team Brian and Lisa.

Volunteer Dennis Hayfield looks after a number of traps along this Great Ride and, since May 2017, has caught 169 stoats, 118 rats, 123 hedgehogs, eight weasels and three ferrets. Love your work Dennis!

The TVDA, in co-operation with the Hauraki Rail Trail Trust, is set to expand their trapping network from Waihi to Thames. Local supporters include trail operators and Coromandel’s Good for your Soul contributors, but you can do your bit too! Please consider donating via the Hauraki Rail Trail Givealittle page.

Many thanks to Hauraki Rail Trail for providing the original stories that were adapted for this article.