A plan to create a guided, cultural, multi-day walk along stunning coastlines and in virgin forests on Rakiura/Stewart Island is progressing thanks to recently secured funding.
Rakiura Maori Lands Trust (RMLT) chair Simon Gomez says the Trust is delighted to announce it has received funding from government to progress a business case for the development of the Great Southern Ocean Guided walk, on Stewart Island/Rakiura.
“Trust members, with the initial assistance of the late Tahu Potiki, worked on developing a strategic plan for the Trust’s land – about 18,000 ha, which stretches from Oban to Lords River and takes in some of the most scenic and historic sites on Rakiura,” he says.
The Trust aims to create a unique, guided cultural walk along the coast, returning inland across virgin podocarp forests.
The project is expected to cost between $20m to $25m to complete. On completion of a feasibility study, a business case will be presented to the Provincial Growth Fund Team, who are aware of the project.
It will also address the issue of workers accommodation on Rakiura to support track development.
“The project has strong support from Councils, Stewart Island community organisations, Te Runanga O Ngāi Tahu and various other interested parties, and we will be involving them all in the development of the proposal.
“RMLT entered into a joint venture with Real Journeys two years ago with the purchase of the island’s largest kiwi spotting business. This successful enterprise, and our good relationship with Real Journeys, means that we had the courage to take the next step, including the development of more kiwi-spotting sites and other tourism products such as Dark Skies opportunities on the Neck, which will also form the gateway to the Great Southern Ocean Walk.
“We hold fast to our values and are committed to ensuring that any tourism operation will have a low impact on flora and fauna. We also aim to put the profits from any operation back into restoring the land to what it was when our ancestors first walked upon it.
“RMLT has also been involved in an extensive pest eradication programme on the area known as the Neck, which was the site of one of the original settlements on Rakiura. The Trust is leading the way by removing deer as well as possums and rats from this block of land, which is a virtual island with a deer exclusion fence on its northern boundary,” Gomez says.
RMLT has also secured $156k from the Department of Conservation to help with the pest eradication programme.
“The fact we have been successful with both lots of funding shows the Government puts great store in our ability to take our project to the next phase.
“We would like to thank the Stewart Island Community, Ngāi Tahu, Awarua Runanga and the Southland Mayors for supporting our application and we look forward to working with them to create what we believe will be one of the Great Walks of the world,” Gomez says.
RMLT is an Ahu Whenua Trust which administers approximately 18,000 ha of land on Stewart Island/Rakiura
RMLT is in a joint venture with Real Journeys operating a kiwi spotting business on Stewart Island/Rakiura
RMLT also operates a deer hunting business on its land
RMLT also owns significant land and buildings in Oban
The RMLT AGM was held in Oban in September