A total of $23m will be invested in building new tracks and upgrading facilities in Taranaki in a bid to attract tourists to the region.
The government plans to spend $13.3m to investigate and support a new 41km walkway project, called the Mounga ki Moana Taranaki Crossing Experience.
Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones said the project would create a ‘Mounga to Moana’ walking experience, “offering a range of one-day walks from Dawson Falls via the North Egmont Visitor Centre, Pouakai Range and Pukeiti Gardens to Oakura Beach”.
This would help encourage visitors to stay in the region for longer, he said.
“It will help to unlock Taranaki’s tourism potential by creating a range of outstanding visitor experiences, just a short drive from New Plymouth or Stratford.”
The funding could also be used to upgrade the North Egmont Visitor Centre to create a conservation and cultural education facility and to develop transport options such as shuttle buses to manage and reduce traffic within the National Park.
Conservation Minister Eugenie Sage said more work would need to be done before decisions are made on exactly what the money will be spent on.
“Mt Taranaki is not an easy place to build or maintain tracks – it’s prone to erosion and weather events which mean construction and ongoing costs can be higher than expected,” Sage said. “There needs to be due diligence about visitor number projections before decisions are made.
“Moreover, we must be certain this work enhances the natural environment and people’s connection to it rather than causing degradation of natural values. I have absolute confidence in DOC’s expertise to ensure this.”
The government funding is part of $20m of investment in Taranaki, coming from the $1 billion Provincial Growth Fund.
DOC has already committed $3.4m towards upgrading the section of track from North Egmont to the Pouakai Range as part of its Budget 2017 investment in visitor infrastructure.
The Mounga ki Moana Taranaki Crossing Experience was developed by Venture Taranaki through the ‘Tapuae Roa – Make Way for Taranaki’ Regional Economic Action Plan, which identified the Crossing as a priority project for the region.
A further $10 million in funding has been earmarked for the project, coming from a mixture of agencies, including Taranaki Regional Council, DOC, New Plymouth District Council and NZTA.