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Final link in the Te Awa River Ride complete

After 13 years, the Te Awa River Ride is finally celebrating its completion as the last section, the 3km stretch between the Hamilton Gardens and Tamahere, was opened to the public on Friday.

The completion of the section means people can now safely walk, bike and scooter the entire 65km path from Ngāruawahia to Lake Karāpiro.

The final piece of the puzzle boasts elevated boardwalks, concrete paths, the Hammond Park native bat colony and a stunning timber truss bridge over the Mangaharakeke Stream.

Hamilton mayor Paula Southgate spoke at the official blessing and opening of the Hamilton Gardens to Tamahere section reminiscing about the journey of the construction of the River Ride.

“I was present at the very first section opening in Cambridge back in 2009 with Waikato Regional Council. So, to be here today, 13 years later, and see the full path through to completion, as the mayor of Hamilton, is exceptionally special,” she said.

The idea for the Te Awa River Ride originated from Perry Group director Simon Perry, who had the vision to make the Waikato River more accessible to the community through a multi-purpose path. As a result, the Te Awa River Ride Charitable Trust was formed in 2009 to turn that vision into reality.

Perry said he is delighted to see the river ride completed now.

“While it’s taken a few more years and millions than what we originally thought, we are absolutely delighted to see our vision finally come to reality as a completed trail. We made a conscious decision as a trust to build the path to a standard that would be not only inclusive but also not be a burden on ratepayers to maintain in the future and the feedback to date from users has been incredible.”

The newly opened Hamilton Gardens-Tamahere section links up with the existing popular sections of the Te Awa River Ride. While the section is now open for public use, there will be a public celebration event on March 25.

Southgate said she knows that all the hard work will continue to pay off.

“This will be a valuable, well-used and well-loved cycling path we will all continue to cherish and enjoy for many years to come.”

The trust says the River Ride was not only a tourism asset to draw visitors to the Waikato region, but the local communities can also enjoy the recreational benefits.

User counters show that so far more than 250,000 users a year have already been using the existing sections of the River Ride and that number is expected to grow now the final link is completed.

Perry said: “As a trust, we are now looking forward to helping our communities realise the benefits of this amazing regional asset through enhancements along Te Awa and events.”

The whole Te Awa River Ride is the longest concrete path in the motu and winds its way along the banks of the Waikato River from opposite Tūrangawaewae Marae in Ngāruawāhia to Lake Karāpiro.

The trail can be broken up into sections that even little legs can ride – and, for the most part, it’s graded one (easiest) to two with a few sections graded three (intermediate). At the existing boardwalk through Hammond Park, people on bikes and scooters are strongly encouraged to “walk their wheels”.

The Hamilton City Council’s capital projects director, Kelly Stokes, said the boardwalk takes users over one of Hamilton’s oldest gully systems known to be a roosting area for the native long-tailed bat (pekapeka-toa-roa).

Within this one-hectare area are more than 145 different native plant species, making this one of the city’s richest forests. Its cultural heritage dates to the 16th century when the area became the land of the Ngāti Wairere. It’s also a corridor for tūī and kereru and occasionally kōmako (bellbird) and kākā travelling into the city.

Stokes said: “[This] meant the boardwalk couldn’t be widened which is why we’re asking people to walk through this narrow 500m section. An on-road detour has been designed for those who want to stay on their bikes or scooters.”

The project has been funded in collaboration between the Hamilton City, Waikato District and Waipa District Councils, the Waikato Regional Council and Waka Kotahi – the New Zealand Transport Agency.

For more information visit the Te Awa River Ride website.

Article extracted from NZ Herald, published on 10 December 2022