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Masterplan provides shared vision and strategic framework for Manawatu Gorge

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Late last week, Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge Governance Group adopted Whakatakotoranga Matua Ki Te Apiti - a masterplan that provides their vision and strategic framework to protect, preserve, and enhance the Manawatu Gorge so that all parties move towards a common goal.

Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge Governance Group (TAMGGG) was established in 2016, formalising a collaboration of various organisations that had been underway for over a decade. Members of TAMGGG include Horizons Regional Council, Tararua District Council, Palmerston North City Council, Manawatu District Council, Department of Conservation (DOC), Iwi and landowners.

TAMGGG and Horizons Chair Rachel Keedwell says the Group are tasked with securing finances and putting in place appropriate systems to effectively resource and deliver work programmes to help grow biodiversity, recreational, educational and cultural values within the scenic reserve.

"While many plans are already in place such as the Manawatu Gorge Cultural Values Assessment prepared by Rangitane, Horizons’ Manawatu Gorge Biodiversity Plan, DOC’s Wellington Conservation Management Plan, and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s Cultural and Environmental Design Framework, as well as various destination plans, no one overarching plan or framework existed," says Cr Keedwell.

"The Masterplan provides a platform for planned and aspirational projects to be united and progressed via an agreed approach.

"Eleven proposed projects have been identified for consideration, these include new recreational tracks, suspension and sky bridges, visitor accommodation, cultural projects, and obtaining UNESCO ‘Geopark’ status for Te Apiti. These sit alongside existing recreation and biodiversity features, and two committed projects being led by Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and Iwi.

Iwi members of the Te Apiti - Manawatu Gorge Governance Group share Cr Keedwell’s sentiment.

Rangitane o Tamaki nui-a-Rua Chair Mavis Mullins says Te Apiti is a taonga that for hundreds of years has been under the kaitiaki (guardianship) of iwi.

"The partnership approach of the Masterplan ensures any and all projects or commercial opportunities that arise in area will be measured against shared objectives," says Mrs Mullins.

"This includes showing how they enhance the mana of Te Apiti, protect the cultural values of the area, and improve visitor experiences.

"The plan also provides for wider tourism opportunities while ensuring a minimal footprint to safeguard the environment for future generations."

Tanenuiarangi Manawatu Incorporated chief executive Danielle Harris says the masterplan recognises the need for all parties to respect mana whenua significant sites and cultural landmarks in the area, while providing opportunities for iwi and hapū narratives to be told.

"Iwi also have a strong desire to be involved in the mahi on the ground and for any future private ventures," says Mrs Harris.

"The strength of the masterplan is in the partnerships and committed network that members can tap into and provide support to each other through a unified approach."

The future of the Old Gorge Road

Cr Keedwell says that one of Gorge Governance Group’s aspirations is for the community and visitors alike to recognise Te Apiti as more than just a passageway between east and west.

"Since the permanent closure of State Highway 3 in April 2017, TAMGG has been strongly advocating for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency to seriously consider how the Old Gorge Road could be turned into a viable community asset," says Cr Keedwell.

"The Masterplan proposes a 9km shared pathway along the former roadway that would link both sides of the ranges, providing spectacular views of the Manawatu River and showcasing the unique cultural heritage of the area through signage.

"We believe this will add real value to the visitor experience and, provided safety measures can be put in place, minimal risk to walkers and cyclists.

"One or multiple members of the Gorge Governance Group would be in a fantastic position to progress a shared pathway, with the Masterplan providing a strong foundation for this and all future endeavors in the area."

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