Whale Trail - Picton to Kaikōura Cycleway

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The Marlborough Kaikōura Trail Trust is working on plans to develop a cycleway between Picton and Kaikōura known as the ‘Whale Trail’. 

At approximately 200km, the cycle trail will connect the communities of Picton, Blenheim, Seddon, Ward, Kekerengu, Clarence and Kaikōura. This includes 30km that are currently part of NZTA and KiwiRail works to improve safety, access and amenities along State Highway 1.

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today that the project had received a significant cash injection, with $322,000 allocated from the Provincial Growth Fund, to enable a technical study to be completed.

The Whale Trail has been in the planning stage since the 2016 Kaikōura earthquake. Its name is a nod to the importance of whales to the area. It also mirrors the whales’ migratory path, which the trail will follow down the East Coast of the South Island.

The trail will be accessible for a diverse range of ages and abilities, including families, and also surfaces which will include sealed path, road, boardwalk and gravel. It will work to the NZCT grades 1,2 and 3. 

Kaikōura District Council is supporting the trust to develop its plans. Council believes the trail could become an iconic journey in its own right and a 'must do' for residents and domestic and international tourists.

Plans are still developing but it is likely the trail will be built over a number of years, with sections completed and opened as funding and construction challenges allow.

Trust members

The Marlborough Kaikōura Trail Trust has nine trustees; Dr John Forrest, (wine industry figure and Chair of the trail's associated working group); Margaret Cooney (commercial strategy management expert),  Sank Macfarlane (owner of The Store in Kēkerengū); Ian McNabb (former Port Marlborough chief executive); Cynthia Stoks (environmental designer), Luke Van Velthooven (property manager and Rowing NZ board member); and  Kauahi Ngapora, (general manager of Whale Watch Kaikōura). 

Former Rātā Foundation chief executive Louise Edwards and Sport Tasman chief executive Nigel Muir serve as independent trustees. 

Cost and benefits

Funding the development of the trail will require a joint effort. The trust and Council's (Marlborough and Kaikōura) are continuing to support fundraising efforts and to work with central government to identify funding options.

 "The trail could be the single biggest benefit for the region following the Kaikōura earthquake" - John Leggett, Mayor Marlborough District

 A feasibility study completed by Marlborough District Council in 2017 identified the following potential benefits:

  1. an estimated 18,000-35,000 users annually, spending up to $19million per annum to the region
  2. up to 77.1 direct jobs and 10.5 indirect jobs are estimated to be created.
  3. the trail adds another reason to travel to the Kaikōura - Marlborough region. It fits in with other tourism ventures throughout the region and will be available all year round due to the climate.
  4. the trail enables people to access some of the most beautiful places in New Zealand, that would be inaccessible otherwise. 

"For the community it's a really exciting project, it's got the potential to provide slow, high-value traffic to an area that for the last 30 years has been pretty stagnant in it's growth" - John Hickman, Quake affected Ward resident

Coastal Pacific Trail Timeline

Fit with the NZTA/KiwiRail (NCTIR) work along SH1

Since the November 2016 earthquake the NZTA and KiwiRail alliance known as the North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) project have been rebuilding the damaged sections of State Highway One and the rail corridor.

This includes work to improve safety, access and amenities over a 60-kilometre section of State Highway 1 between Clarence and Oaro. Part of this work is a shared use path on a 20km stretch of road between Waipapa Bay and Mangamaunu. The intention is to eventually extend this shared path a further 10km south of Kaikōura.

This 30km section will eventually form part of the Coastal Pacific trail.

The final consents for this work were under special legislation that modified the normal process in the Resource Management Act 1991, called the Hurunui/Kaikōura Earthquakes Recovery (Coastal Route and Other Matters) Order 2016. Under this legislation Council had to grant the consent.

A number of residents and visitors have raised concerns about the impact of these planned works on marine access, culturally significant sites and the surfbreak at Mangamaunu. Council staff continue to help connect community members with NZTA and KiwiRail . The use of the special legislation is now under judicial review with an outcome expected by December 2018.

In August 2018, NCTIR formed a Cultural Advisory Group as a pathway for discussing and finding a way forward for cultural concerns connected with the NCTIR project.

NZTA regional relationships director Jim Harland said there was "no plan to build on [or] adjacent to the urupā" and that it was hoped access to the mahinga kai, or food-gathering place, and the foreshore would be maintained.

Council recognises the value of the coastal strip to all of its users and guardians and the significance of cultural and archaeological matters.

Background and useful links: 


28 June 2019