‘Waiheke champion’ Gary Wilton has been acknowledged for his contribution to walking access.
The island resident received an Outdoor Access Champion Award for his work in building the Te Ara Hura track network.
The 100km track explores the coastlines, native bush and historic sites of Waiheke Island, and is divided into four areas of differing character; Headlands, Beaches ‘n’ Baches, Forest Heart and Far End.
Wilton, who is Auckland Council’s Waiheke parks advisor, said his team contributed around 20 per cent of the linking tracks, but most of the network was pre-existing.
“We’ve got more tracks per square kilometre than anywhere in New Zealand. Nowhere is more than 2km from a public road or walking track – they really criss-cross the island,” he said.
“There were pioneers before me out there with spades cutting goat tracks around the coast, and they set the scene and established the arteries – we just gave it all an electric shock and got it started,” he said.
Wilton said it’s an honour to be recognised for his work, as building tracks is where his heart is.
“When I was sitting in my corporate law firm office in Glasgow in 1998, if somebody told me I would create just one track, I would have been over the moon,” he said.
The award also recognises Wilton’s work in creating and volunteering for the annual Waiheke Walking Festival, which Wilton believes in the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.