At least 200 Eastern Bays residents turned up on foot or on two wheels for the official opening, on Wednesday, May 25, of Section 2 of the Glen Innes to Tamaki Drive Shared Path. This section closes the gap between the already-completed Section 1 (Merton Rd to St Johns Rd) and Section 3 (Ōrākei Basin Boardwalk).
The spectacularly sunny autumn day was perfect for everyone to celebrate this milestone in the best way possible — by walking or cycling the 3-kilometre length of the new section, which begins at the intersection of St John’s Rd. and St Heliers Bay Rd, and meanders gently downhill through Pourewa Valley until it emerges at Ôrākei Basin Boardwalk.
The path was possibly Auckland’s best-kept secret until opening day. The St Johns Rd entrance was unobtrusive, with signs that said “site access” and “trucks turning” and metal gates discouraging the curious from going any further. So it was a revelation when opening day arrived and we —the general public, including me and two friends, all Eastern Bays residents — were invited in to see what Waka Kotahi and Auckland Transport had been doing behind the gates for the last 21 months.
What we found was a total contrast to the busy roads just a few metres away. The sight and sound of traffic ceased as we found ourselves in a part of our city that many of us hardly knew existed. What was for many years an inaccessible, weed-infested wasteland — much of it designated to be used for the proposed six-lane Eastern motorway until public opposition put an end to that idea in 2004 — is once again a lovely valley. Instead of a roaring motorway, human intervention is represented by a smooth, 4m-wide concrete path that takes walkers and cyclists through the green belt behind the suburban façade of Kohimarama, Mission Bay and Meadowbank. Pace: Leisurely. Noise level: Low — human voices, bike bells, train woosh and the occasional dog bark.
The path proceeded beyond the back yards of houses in John Rymer Place. Far below, pedalling hard, was a cyclist in hi-viz yellow who would eventually arrive on our level. A little further on, up the hill to our right was Selwyn Bush, which volunteers have spent 20 years transforming from a rubbish-strewn wilderness to a thriving area of native trees.
As we walked parallel to the railway through Meadowbank, a train with bright yellow doors glided past behind a metal mesh fence with attractive native-plant landscaping in the intervening space between train track and pathway. On the far side of the track we glimpsed the lower slopes of Purewa Cemetery’s lawns and gardens.
At Tahapa East Reserve there’s a natural open space where organisers had set up a tent for opening-day speakers*, a bike rack, a coffee cart and even a few bean bags. From this point there was a panoramic view all the way to the city and the Sky Tower.
On we went beside more landscaping of native trees, shrubs and ground covers until we reached Section 3 of the pathway — the boardwalk across Ōrākei Basin, which seemed to almost float on the water. For this section over sea water, the path is covered in a rubberized material to prevent slipping.
We exited the pathway unobtrusively beneath Ōrākei Rd Bridge, emerging in the lower carpark of Ōrākei Bay Village. We were already making plans to do the walk again, and to introduce friends to this outstanding new asset for Tāmaki Makaurau.
We felt a bit ashamed not to have walked Section 1 yet, and vowed to remedy that, as well as to keep an eye out for the next stage of the pathway — Section 4: Ōrākei Basin to Tamaki Drive, Work on Section 4 will start this month, June 2022. Once the pathway is completed all the way to the waterfront we’ll see why its Māori name is Te Ara Ki Uta Ki Tai (The Path of Land and Sea).
*Opening day speakers were: Steve Mutton, Director Regional Relationships Waka Kotahi/NZTA; Transport Minister Michael Wood; Auckland’s Mayor, Phil Goff; Auckland Councilor and Ōrākei Ward representative Desley Simpson; Chair of Bike Auckland Tony Mitchell.
Pictures and story by Jan Power