Whanganui National Park – May 2021
Few of our country’s tracks have as long a history as the Matemateāonga Walkway. Crossing from the rugged hill country of eastern Taranaki, the 42km track traverses the Matemateāonga Range to end on the banks of the Whanganui River. For centuries the area has been used and traversed by Māori, who developed the first track along the range. Then, during the early part of the twentieth century, attempts were made to develop a dray road between Stratford and Raetihi, and to open the area for farming. World War One interrupted, but some progress continued until the 1930s Depression saw farming and roading in the area largely abandoned. During the 1970s and 1980s, the old road route was developed into a tramping track as part of the walkways movement, when most of the existing 4 huts were also built. In 1986 much of the track became part of Whanganui National Park.
The walkway traverses through magnificent sections of native forest, with occasional views towards Taranaki Maunga, as well as the volcanoes of Tongariro. While a well-graded route, benched for much of its length, and with very few climbs and no river crossings, both ends of the track are a long way apart, so it has not received as much use as it otherwise would. And in recent years, sections of the track had become overgrown.
Happily, a grant from the Kaimahi for Nature Fund, organised by the BCT, enabled some much-needed work to be completed on the track in recent months.
The focus was on upgrading a section of track between Kurapete Junction and Humphries Clearing. Ngāti Rangi Ruapehu Worx, with some assistance from DOC staff, undertook the work. The main tasks were clearing vegetation using brush-cutters, cutting windfall with chainsaws, and widening and repairing the track using a digger. A helicopter was used when necessary to transport equipment, fuel and food into a camp near Humphries Clearing.
As DOC ranger Jim Campbell reports, this was the first time a digger has operated on the Matemateāonga Walkway: ‘While the logistics were complex and expensive, it proved to be the right option. Visitors will now benefit from better views, a drier surface and full use of the original 12-foot bench where it still existed.’
‘Ngāti Rangi Ruapehu Worx proved to be a very competent and easy-to-deal-with contractor. They were reliable and used their knowledge and initiative well. There was good communication throughout the project.’