Te Waihou Walkway / Blue Spring
Blue Spring / Te Waihou Walkway is CLOSED
Access to Te Waihou Walkway/Blue Spring from both the Leslie Road end and Whites Road end is CLOSED due to a landslip and rockfall (at Leslie Road end) and significant traffic management issues (at Whites Road end).
The Blue Spring is not accessible over any of the neighbouring farmers' private property.
For the full media statement follow this link.
To read the article that was published in the Waikato Times, please follow this link.
In the meantime, there are other beautiful sites in the South Waikato to explore. For more information on these please visit our visitor attraction website here.
Need to know more about the closure of the Blue Spring / Te Waihou Walkway? Please see below.
Two reasons. One caused by the other. A landslip at the Leslie Road end forced closure of that end. The cliff is unstable. The area is hazardous with subsequent additional rockfalls. Public safety is paramount. Closing Leslie Road end drove increased traffic volumes to the Whites Road end. Overflow parking onto the immediate section of a state highway is causing extremely dangerous situations for members of the public and other vehicle occupants. Again, public safety is paramount.
A geotechnical report indicates further landslips are likely. Council is investigating how/if a secondary access on Leslie Road might be developed. Council has closed access to determine a long-term management plan for the Te Waihou walkway and Blue Spring that addresses safety, sustainability and environmental responsibilities with all the relevant stakeholders.
Staff took a report to Council in August. The report outlined the situation and complexities. Council adopted full temporary closure. All Councillors spoke to the issue. No Councillor was happy about the situation but understood the risks. All Councillors except one (who abstained from the vote), voted for full closure.
No. But public safety has to come first.
Council can and should sometimes discuss matters in public excluded. This is managed under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act. This matter was discussed in public excluded… being a report that the Chief Executive [of SWDC] reasonably expects will be discussed with the public excluded to carry on, without prejudice or disadvantage, negotiations (including commercial and industrial). As an aside, Council does very little business in public excluded.
Yes, the Blue Spring is closed to all visitors from 13 November 2023. There is no public access; and access over private property may be considered trespassing by the landowner.
We anticipate opening the Walkway and Blue Spring by November next year. We also wish to say that this is likely to be sooner but didn’t want to over promise.
We don’t know yet. That is part of the investigation work into a long term viable solution.
Council has a management plan that is now under review. Currently Council manages and maintains the walkway.
The cost to close the entire walkway is minimal and consists mostly of fencing, signage and some public messaging. Other security options such as traffic management may be considered if visitors continue to ignore the no entry restrictions. This kind of security costs are approximately $13,000 per week depending on the level employed. Indeed, while we seek solutions, with no public access, there is minimal to none toilet cleaning and/or rubbish bins to empty.
The rockfall occurred at the Leslie Road end, approximately 250m from the car park. The rockfall is visible from the carpark.
After the rockfall earlier this year, Council implemented immediate safety measures and the walkway was closed from the Leslie Road carpark entrance. Unfortunately, this necessary course of action has resulted in dangerous parking at Whites Road end. Council has subsequently decided to close Blue Spring / Te Waihou Walkway completely so that Council and our partners can carry out a thorough assessment and remedial work safely. We will not be able to undertake this work if the track remains open to visitors. The Whites Road end parking issues is causing a significant public safety risk, and cannot remain open to attract visitors while a solution is found.
No, Council along with stakeholders have every intention of re-opening this track once the complexities are resolved and an updated and effective management plan in place.
Council cannot predetermine when/if the Leslie Road access will reopen without further investigating the possible options, safety, cost and resource consent obligations. That is what we are doing now, alongside the landowners and Waikato Regional Council.
We have discussed this option with Waikato Regional Council and the suggestion will not get resource consent. This is not a permanent solution. WRC has indicated we could put a temporary track in over the wetland, but it would never get consent and would need removing, at Council (ratepayer) cost.
Because it will interfere with the wetland and water overland flows and would be in breach of the current legislation. Council has engaged consultants to determine the pathway for a possible alternative walkway and provide assistance through the resource consent process.
The interest in the Blue Spring / Te Waihou Walkway has increased in popularity over time, therefore benefiting from having two entrances, via Leslie and Whites Roads, helping to manage the increase in visitor numbers.
However, following the closure of the Leslie Road entrance it became clear the Whites Road entrance, situated in a rest area, does not have the capacity to meet demands of the attraction and has created a significant safety issue.
The Whites Road rest area and entrance is in a rural high-speed environment, alongside a sweeping bend in State Highway 28. This combined with an increase in traffic volumes, pedestrians and turning traffic, further increases the risk for people using this stretch of road and for of those wishing to visit the attraction.
The safety risks for visitors to the Blue Spring / Te Waihou Walkway cannot be ignored and there is no easy way to make accessing the rest area safer or increase its capacity for more vehicles.
The assessment by the geotechnical engineers found that the site is highly unstable and prone to further rockfalls and boulder movements.
19. Why hasn’t Council started the slip remediation work, ie stabilising the land and clearing the slip?
For three reasons. 1, cost – Council has no budget for this work. 2, process and expertise – stabilising a cliff is a complex and intricate process, Council would need to secure experts as we don’t have this expertise in house. 3, Council does not own this stretch of land and needs to carefully consider if spending such a significant amount of public money (ratepayer money) on private property is appropriate. Council is investigating options to relocate this section of Walkway away from the landslip area.
There have been further rockfalls since June. The risk of personal injury and possible death is very high. The rockfall is approximately 20 metres wide and 20 metres high.
While Leslie Road entrance is closed and there is only one access to the walkway via Whites Road, there is a much higher crash and injury risk because of:
- Higher volume of traffic trying to access and use the rest area for parking to visit the Walkway.
- Increased volume of traffic on the state highway.
- Unsafe turning into the rest area, in a high-speed environment which is on a sweeping bend in the road.
- Increased illegal roadside parking causing blind spots.
- Increase in pedestrians getting into and out of vehicles and walking along the road and verge.
Recent Police activity at the Whites Road entrance include 40 parking infringements in one weekend, observation of visitors using this 100km/h stretch of state highway like it’s a footpath and three separate instances where drivers were seen doing a three point turn on the state highway.
The risk of injury and possible death is high and cannot be ignored by the Council. The closure is necessary for the safety of both people using the road and Walkway users.
Council is investigating several possible solutions and has closed the walkway to work through options with various stakeholders. If a fix is found early in the piece and it is possible to re-open the walkway, Council will do this.
Renting additional land for parking at the Leslie Road end will not solve the issue of the rockfall, so would be a pointless cost. Renting additional land for parking at the Whites Road end may be an option. It needs investigating properly and we’re not prepared to wait for a fatality to occur at that site while we do that. We are consulting with landowners on a number of matters, including possible parking solutions. Parking solutions at the Whites Road may require earthworks.
The closure is designed to protect everyone not just visitors. We realise that the closure is an inconvenience, but public safety is our main priority. We hope to re-open the walkway as soon as it is safe to do so.
The land over which the walkway goes is owned by various individuals and organisations such as local landowners, Department of Conservation and South Waikato District Council has an unformed road corridor in the area which is traversed by the walkway at various points.
Yes. Swimming at the Whites Road end is still permitted. No one is allowed access to the Walkway.
Whites Road is a state highway and the carpark is a designated rest area, managed by Waka Kotahi as the road controlling authority. The rest area will remain open, allowing people to continue to stop and use the rest area as intended.
State Highway 28 has been noted and put forward for consideration as part of the 2024 - 2027 state highway speed management plan.
The history of the Waihou River, as a multi purpose focus for the people of the region, dates back to the time of the first human visitors. The river comes from as far up as the Ngātira Marae, which significantly marks the Eastern boundary of "Raukawa Ki Te Kaokaoroa o Pātetere" and therefore the Northern boundary of the Raukawa.
It was a journeying place of Kīngi Te Wherowhero Tāwhiao, the second Māori King of New Zealand, as it provided him with his main travelling route. The river gave him food and the flax was used for many purposes. Also, Kahupeka, a Tainui tūpuna, set off with her son shortly after her husband's death to wander around the Central North Island. On her travels, the Upper Waihou River was one of the main rivers that she and her son crossed while travelling from Pirongia to Te Aroha, and again from Te Aroha to Whakamaru.
Moving on to later years, the Edmeades family settled and began to farm the land along the Upper Waihou River in 1938. At this stage the river area was heavily covered with fern and ti tree, which was eventually cleared. During these early days, war trenches were dug along the Upper Waihou River as a result of the war scare, but were covered in without ever being used.
The Te Waihou Walkway was officially opened by the then Prime Minister Helen Clark on 15 April 2000.