Rātā Foundation has gotten firmly behind the proposed Coastal Trail, a separated cycleway and walkway, with a grant of $600,000, from its 2016 Earthquake Recovery Fund, towards development costs for the trail.
Leighton Evans, Chief Executive of the Foundation, says the decision was made recently by the Board to provide significant support to the project, estimated to be $900,000 in the first year. The total project has been estimated at a cost of $9 million.
In 2016 Rātā Foundation set up a one-off special fund of $1.1 million in response to the needs of the Hurunui, Kaikoura and Southern Marlborough regions affected by the earthquake. Grants of $500,000 have already been allocated to support community groups with immediate recovery needs.
Mr Evans says his team had a number of meetings with key people throughout the impacted regions on what might be needed in the long-term around the rebuild of community facilities. Lotteries recently announced a $7.5 million specifically for capital works in these areas.
“After Lotteries allocated that money, it made sense to us to look at other ways we could support the long-term recovery of quake affected regions. We are really supportive of the vision for the Trail, which will not only provide a fantastic recreational facility for local communities, but provides welcome economic stimulus to the many quake affected communities along the route,” he says.
Support for the Trail certainly appears to be ramping up, with the then Government’s announcement last year on the provision of $231 million of improvements on State Highway 1, which included an 11-kilometre shared cycling and walking pathway between Okiwi Bay and Mangamaunu. The current Government has also pledged its support for the project.
"There is no doubt these improvements will provide for great travel and visitor experiences to support increased tourism and economic growth in the region. The timing to make it happen really couldn’t be better with work on State Highway 1 already happening,” says Mr Evans.
Broad awareness and support has already been established for the Trail in the community and from business and community leaders, alongside the relevant District Councils. Kiwi Rail has also come out in support of the proposed Trail and has committed to reviewing its existing bike capacity on its Picton to Christchurch route.
Mr Evans said it gave a sense of what was experienced following the earthquake and build hope.
Late last year, as part of its commitment to the project produced a video.
"Some of the people interviewed in the video have seen a profound change in circumstances from the resultant State Highway 1 closure, the video not only supports the development of the coastal trail, it tells a personal story, one which needs to be told as it is now a part of our history," Evans said.
The trail would be a "game-changer for the region" and provide economic benefit to regions affected by the Kaikōura earthquake.
"This is a significant and iconic project, covering much of the region impacted by the November earthquake and will be a particular economic boon to many of the smaller communities along the Kaikōura coast ... who have been struggling to make ends meet," he said.
"We are hoping by committing to this project, we'll attract other funders from central and local government, along with corporate sponsors," Mr Evans said.