Written by on July 22, 2023

Cathedral Cove Scenic Cruises operator, Ken Hindmarsh says the current level of information from DOC on the reinstatement of walkways to access Cathedral cove is extremely poor.

He told CFM that “They appear to be hiding behind health and safety as a reason not to get on with it. There is no communication regarding the plan for the repair and reinstatement.” he said.

Photo: Gary Hinds

Access was closed due to a rockfall on 9 February just a couple of weeks after the demise of a 140-metre section of State Highway 25a that closed the key transport route that joined east and western sides of the Coromandel Peninsula. The difference between the State Highway closure and Cathedral Cove closure, is NZTA had a plan in place by May for its reinstatement while on the other hand DOC now says it still has no repair solution for a replacement section of track into Cathedral Cove.

Tourist operators we spoke to are very frustrated and desperate as Cathedral Cove attracts over 200,000 visitors annually and without this key tourist attraction being opened for visitors, are seeing their savings dwindle while DOC appear to have no urgency in reinstating the Coromandel’s most popular visitor attraction. For these businesses this comes on top of a unparalleled summer of extreme weather including a years rainfall in 5 months and prior to these two years of covid lockdowns that resulted in visitor numbers declining significantly.

Mercury Bay Business Association Chair, Lynda Grant says that it is another example of being let down by the very government departments that are charged with managing key assets. Lynda added that this is just so unfair to our local tourism reliant businesses and the downstream economic impact for all on the Coromandel is very significant.

Tim Bright, Marketing Manager for Hot Water Beach Top 10 Holiday Park is also frustrated by the lack of communication. He said “Cathedral Cove is one of the three main options in attracting international tourism to Coromandel Peninsula – the other two being Hot Water Beach and Driving Creek Railway.”

“You strike one of those off the list and it is easy to see the other two dropped off as well. As a result, tourists will leave Auckland and head to Hobbiton and bypass Coromandel Peninsula.”

“Cathedral Cove closed does impact the entire region. The tourists come to Thames, Driving Creek, Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove are the reasons why the come up the west and then loop to the east. Cathedral Cove being closed gives them a reason not to make the loop. “

“Like the roads Cathedral Cove is another string on the bow, and now it is snapping another string.”

Tim said the cost of losing the cove extended into tens of millions of dollars lost to the community. He said when you considered the number of water charter operations, and the land based with the likes of accommodation, he said that money normally pumped back into the local community was now lost.

To him there is a potential downstream impact because even if the cove was reopened for next year, as international tourism programmes are created 12 to 18 months ahead of time, there was the risk Cathedral Cove would be left off package itineraries. He describes this scenario as “pretty devastating”.

A spokesperson for DOC told CFM that so far, they have had geotechnical assessments. The spokesperson said that the work has been hampered by consistent rain which has led to ongoing soil movement. They refused to supply CFM with copies of the reports saying that they are not available, although DOC anticipate completed peer-reviewed reports in coming days. Those reports are crucial for decision-making, and their experts understand the importance of their work as DOC work through this – they want to offer the best possible information they can.

When asked if they had a solution for access to Cathedral Cove, they responded that they are exploring all options to remediate – and want to emphasise the work needed to undertake addresses issues and asset replacement across the entire Cathedral Cove site – amounting to 47 hectares – not just one or two tracks or sets of steps most familiar with or used regularly. However, they stated that no definite decisions have been made, and they do not have any contracts or timeframes that had been committed to at this time.

They also told CFM that they have consistently said there is no target reopening date for Cathedral Cove. They appreciate the high level of local engagement in the topic and the importance of the site.

This hasn’t been received well by Ken Hindmarsh who on hearing this update said he was very disappointed and felt let down by DOC who in his view obviously do not appreciate the impact their lack of urgency is having across businesses and homes throughout the Coromandel. Ken also wonders if the attention is being diverted to repairs in other districts that have attractions like the Great Walks where DOC charges for access and use of facilities that they don’t have with the Cathedral Cove walkway.

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