The Pūkorokoro-Miranda to Thames section of the Hauraki Rail Trail was officially opened on 18 November 2017 with a fun, family-friendly opening festival. This addition to the Rail Trail makes it a true, multi-day cycling experience that is within range of much of New Zealand's population, and close to Auckland Airport. This section of the Rail Trail has approved Grade 1 Great Ride status which means that the ride is suitable for all ages and abilities. The Hauraki Rail Trail is a joint project between Hauraki, Thames-Coromandel, and Matamata-Piako District councils. For the latest news and information on the Hauraki Rail Trail, visit their website. Hauraki Rail Trail Stage 2- Pūkorokoro-Miranda to Thames Construction began on the this section of the Hauraki Rail Trail in April 2016 and was completed in late 2017. The Pūkorokoro-Miranda to Thames section is a joint venture between our Council and the Hauraki District Council and connects with the original Thames to Te Aroha rail trail to make it a true multi-day cycling experience. The two councils have each contributed $1 million to building the new section and NZ Transport Agency paid the nearly $1 million cost of a clip-on cycle lane on the Piako River bridge which allows cyclists to cross the river separately from traffic on SH25. This committed funding will take the cycleway as far as Miranda Bridge north of the Miranda Shorebird Centre. A further $1.2 million is still needed to cover the last 15km from Pūkorokoro/Miranda to Kaiaua. For now, this section can be covered on the East Coast Road, which sees relatively little traffic. Meanwhile, Auckland Council is constructing a cycleway from the city to Kaiaua, over the Hunua Ranges, to link up to the Hauraki Rail Trail, which would bring the large population of Auckland cyclists a day's ride from Thames via the western shore of the Firth of Thames. And, Matamata-Piako District Council is extending the rail trail south from Te Aroha to Matamata. Thames is the perfect place for an overnight stop with the prospect of continuing on the Hauraki Rail Trail to Paeroa and beyond to Te Aroha and/or Waihi (on the spur through the Karangahake Gorge). Or, Thames is also the gateway to the rest of the Coromandel. Further information on what to see and do in Thames is available on the Thames visitor website. For a guide to the Coromandel Peninsula, go the Destination Coromandel website. Click on the map to open a larger version. Kopu to Kaiaua route highlights We recommend that cyclists begin in Kaiaua or Pūkorokoro-Miranda and make their way to Thames. Here's just a taste of what you'll find: Miranda Hot Springs. The Seabird Coast - including the Miranda Shorebird Centre - between Kaiaua and Miranda with its world renowned Chenier shell banks - is the summer home to a variety of migratory Arctic wading birds. The Wrybill, the only species of bird in the world with a beak that is bent sideways, can be found here all year round. Southern Firth of Thames (Tikapa Moana) The southern shore of the Firth of Thames is listed as a wetland of international importance under the Ramsar Convention (an inter-governmental treaty on wetlands). The Firth of Thames Ramsar site includes approximately 7,800 hectares of shallow estuarine waters, intertidal mudflats, mangrove and saltmarsh, and graded shell beach ridges. Kopu Bridge crossing of the Waihou river. Magnificent views of the Coromandel Range as you make your way along the tops of stopbanks past idyllic farmland, wetlands and beautiful exotic and native bird species. Cycleway background, route and proposal The Pūkorokoro-Miranda to Thames section hooks up with the existing Hauraki Rail Trail at Kopu. Cyclists coming from the west (Auckland direction) can then turn left (north) to Thames on the rail trail, or right (south). The Hauraki Rail Trail utilises the old rail corridor following SH25 and then SH26 to Paeroa and then Te Aroha. A spur runs from Paeroa to Waihi through the spectacular Karangahake Gorge, following a decommissioned rail line which passes through a 1km tunnel. Matamata-Piako District Council is looking at expanding the rail trail from Te Aroha to Matamata. A suggestion: The Karangahake Gorge is at its best earlier in the day, so start at Waihi or Waikino, traverse the gorge, then head north from Paeroa towards Thames. Relax on your way into Thames with pauses for refreshments available in Hikutaia, Puriri, and Matatoki. Spend a relaxing night in Thames and sample the numerous cafes and restaurants before exploring the historic township with its many gold-mining related museums the following day. More information on what to see and do in Thames is available on the Thames visitor website. Bike shuttle services can be arranged from several providers. The Hauraki Rail Trail is a joint project between: Hauraki District Council Matamata-Piako District Council Thames-Coromandel District Council NZ Cycleways (Click on the map to open a larger version) Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust The Trust provides governance of the Hauraki Rail Trail. It consists of three representatives chosen by each of the three councils behind the cycleway and three iwi representatives. One iwi representative position is currently vacant. The members are: Wati Ngamane, Chair and iwi representativeCouncillor Diane Connors, TCDC representativeCouncillor Julie Bubb, HDC representativeShaun O'Neill, MPDC representativeJoss Karu, iwi representative Hauraki Rail Trail General Manager appointed (Diane Drummond, HRT General Manager. Photo: Andrew Whyte) Diane Drummond was appointed general managerof the Hauraki Rail Trail in January 2017. Ms Drummond has taken over many of the responsibilities of the Principal Trail Operator, which did not renew its contract at the end of March 2017 (see below for more on this). Her tourism career began at Bayline Coaches 25 years ago where she was the sales and marketing manager. From there her career has taken her around the world selling local experiences and package tours to international markets. She’s completed an MBA (Master of Business Administration) at Waikato University, worked for Tourism BOP in business development, lectured at BOP Polytechnic, and spent the last three years in Wellington developing and managing the Government’s fledgling $8million Tourism Growth Partnership fund. During her time in the capital, she worked with a dedicated panel of tourism professionals who led the decision to invest in more than $100 million of new tourism infrastructure. This included developing the downhill mountain bike track (MTB) at Skyline in Rotorua to race standards, which led to the internationally renowned Crankworx MTB festival making Rotorua a regular stop on its tour circuit. Encouraging trail users to come now, do more, and come back, will be an early focus for Drummond, who plans to spend plenty of time doing just that herself. There are already some gems on the trail, such as the Karangahake Gorge and Kaiaua’s shorebird sanctuary, but she sees much bigger opportunities than that. “It’s the unexpected journeys. Old miner’s tracks, maritime parks, and farm stays. There’s a huge opportunity here to tell so many of our stories and create business opportunities around them. We also have a fantastic range of artisans, boutique cheese makers, and cafes,” she says. Her role also involves liaising with central government organisations and funding partners. The trail enjoys a privileged position as one of only 23 Great Rides in the New Zealand Cycle Trail network. At the end of March 2017, Great Cycle Rides NZ won't be renewing its contract as the (PTO). This contract saw Great Cycle Rides NZ responsible for the day-to-day management of the trail, the development of the booking system and website, and the marketing of the trail. The only payment the PTO has received for these services has been from concessions (as a percentage of commission received through the booking system). This revenue has been less than forecast because fewer than expected trail users are booking multi-day trips through the PTO's booking system. Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust Chair Wati Ngamane says participating councils (Hauraki, Thames-Coromandel, and Matamata-Piako) have recently agreed to underwrite maintenance of the trail and a significant portion of the Trust’s operating costs, making income from the booking system less crucial. Hauraki Rail Trail official website The Hauraki Rail Trail official website www.haurakirailtrail.co.nz includes a range of information, including facts and figures about the trail and the answers to the most frequently asked questions. Maps of the trail are also available on the website, showing the routes from Thames to Paeroa, Paeroa to Waikino and Paeroa to Te Aroha.