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Waikato Trail progress
Te Araroa Trust wants the New Zealand-long foot trail to be a millennium project.
The trust has made an 80-page submission to the Millennium Office during the latest round of applications, and expects a decision within a month.
"We have told the office that we believe a legally viable through-route is achievable by the millennial turnover date of December 31, 2000 - still 21 months out," says Te Araroa chairwoman, Jenny Wheeler.
"Tremendous good will exists towards the trail idea, and if it is endorsed by the Millennium Office, and wins some funding, we believe that an acceptable route can be achieved quickly," she says.
"It would give New Zealand a focus through the millennial years, and produce a lasting benefit. Everyone, from school children to seniors could play a part in it."
A through route is not the same as a fully-formed track. But it would guarantee passage to through trampers and would serve as a protected corridor, at least roughly blazed, that could be brought up to trail standard by local authorities or other funders as budgets became available.
The trust has proposed that whatever local tramping or community group has worked to make a section of the trail in their area a legally-viable through route, should also be the first to walk that route, carrying a millennial light.
Every route, or track walked with the light would be plotted in regularly-published Te Araroa newsletters, and on the trust's web site maps. Where well-formed tracks already exist - like Cape Reinga-Ninety Mile Beach, or the Tongariro Crossing - the trust will seek other candidates to carry the light.
"Our aim would be to have those millennial light sections - either along new route sections, or existing tracks - finally linked into a continuous line, Cape Reinga - Bluff, before midnight on December 31, 2000AD," said Wheeler.
Some 80% of the North Island trail is already easily walkable, either as existing trails, or as coastal or river reserve. In addition, the trust is looking at a South Island route that may include seven of the South's most popular walking tracks. The inclusion of these tracks makes the walkable percentage also close to 80%.
"The challenge is to get the other 20% to the status of a legal through route - and we've indicated to the Millennium Office that - with funding - it's an achievable goal," said Wheeler.