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Waikato Trail opened
The walk is part of Te Araroa "The Long Pathway" - the plan for a legal walking or tramping route from Cape Reinga to Bluff by the year 2005.
Sir Edmund unveiled a stone at the northern beginning of the new walk with words engraved on it from the Topp Twins song Turangawaewae -
'A sacred place to be By the banks of the mighty Waikato As she flows out to the sea'
Sir Edmund came out strongly in favour of a national trail the length of the country at the opening. "Being able to walk the length of New Zealand we'll get a much better understanding of what our country is like,:" said Sir Edmund told the 70 guests.
Trailblazer (or CEO) for Te Araroa Trust, Geoff Chapple, described how he'd walked the Waikato stopbanks two years ago and felt that a good scenic trail could be established on the river stopbanks. Te Araroa Trust subsequently won a $68,000 grant from the Lottery Grants Board Millennium SubCommittee to put the trail in. The Labour Department's Community Employment Group also supported the venture.
A Maori blessing on signage at the trail's northern beginning offers the protection of Wawaia, Karutahi and Te Ia Roa - local taniwha - to walkers on the river route. The trail starts at Dragway Road, just south of the old Meremere Power Station off State Highway One. It reaches a rendezvous with Churchill East Road at the Te Kauwhata Irrigation Pumphouse, 10 kilometres upriver, and this section is regarded as the most scenic part of the walk. From the pumphouse, the trail follows the stopbank alongside Churchill East Road for another 8 kilometres to finish beneath the river bridge at Rangiriri.