Improving access to Ōtaki Forks
Work to improve access to Ōtaki Forks and Tararua Forest Park has begun with a new walking track under construction.
Ōtaki Gorge Road has been closed to all vehicles and walkers at the area known as Blue Bluff, 12km inland from State Highway 1, since September 2020.
The road was closed after a weather event triggered slipping and the road was at risk of dropping away. A subsequent slip of approximately 3000 cubic metres in volume and 65m in length covered the road in the same area in December 2021.
A new track is now being built over the slips to improve walking access to a treasured area of natural beauty and a gateway to the Tararua Forest Park.
Kāpiti Coast District Council Access and Transport manager Glen O’Connor says it is hoped the new walking path will provide a safer, easier and faster route to the Forks area and beyond.
“The new path will take walkers over the original slow slip which has stabilised in recent months, and then over the second slip which is covering the road,” Mr O’Connor says.
“We’ve had specialist track builders do the work and when complete it will be similar terrain to the Paekākāriki Escarpment Track. We expect this work to be complete in July and be well-established by summer.
“We had hoped to open a walking and cycling track in December last year but the later slip complicated things. We are delighted that earlier work can now be used and we’re heading in the right direction.”
Mr O’Connor says the track will mean the 4km walk from Blue Bluff to the Forks should take about an hour.
“The new track will require some caution, a reasonable level of fitness and some confidence around heights. Before we open it to the public, we’ll make sure it is as safe as possible, and as always given the conditions in the area it could be subject to closure.”
Work on developing longer-term options continues.
“We know Ōtaki Forks is a treasured natural area of huge value not just to locals but to the whole of New Zealand, and we understand the frustration at having no vehicle access.
“We are working on options for restoring vehicle access but ask for patience. There are no quick or cheap fixes here and we must consider a lot of factors, not least cost and who pays, and the likely possibility of future slips.”
Ōtaki Councillor James Cootes, who holds the transport portfolio, says it is great to see access improving and hopes it will result in positive social and economic outcomes too.
“This will make it possible for more than just the hardiest of trampers to experience Ōtaki Forks,” Cr Cootes says.
“The park is a real drawcard for visitors and locals looking to connect with nature, with Ōtaki a great place to grab supplies and a bite to refuel.”
Cr Cootes says Council staff have worked hard clearing the previous slips, finding solutions to improve access and are committed to a more sustainable long-term solution for Blue Bluff.
Department of Conservation senior ranger Robert Ashe says the Boielles Summer Campsite will be open and bookable from 1 December for those who can walk in and out.
“This is great news for us and anyone who loves the outdoors,” Mr Ashe says.
“Ōtaki Forks normally attracts hundreds of visitors every summer and is popular in winter too. It has been missed as a destination in the wider Wellington region and beyond. We look forward to seeing more people come for a visit and to explore this wonderful part of the natural estate.”
Visit kapiticoast.govt.nz/otaki-gorge-road for more about Blue Bluff.
Visit Boielles Summer Campsite for camping info.