Space coast cycleway mooted for Wairoa, Mahia

Excitement mounts at possibilities for our region.

Excitement mounts at possibilities for our region.

A SPACE Coast Cycleway could be on track for Wairoa.

Wairoa District Council wants to develop a Space Coast Cycleway to tie in with international satellite launching company Rocket Lab.

The cycleway would connect Wairoa to Mahia and showcase the area’s coastal views.

The path would connect with rocket launch viewing areas for cyclists to stop and enjoy the space spectacle.

WDC last week met with the Regional Cycle Governance Group made up of representatives from around the Hawke’s Bay-Wairoa region.

Group chairwoman Cynthia Bowers said this was the first meeting the group had out of Napier, and it was important they visited Wairoa to get a feel for its potential.

“We are excited about the plans around Wairoa. It’s an exciting time for all of us,” she said.

Ms Bowers said the group was in the process of developing a regional cycle plan, which was a “big step forward”.

“The plan draws all ideas from the region, creating good linkages and co-ordinating all plans together.

“We want to ensure cycling is promoted and encourage more people to cycle. There’s an education factor to it as well."

Funding for a cycle co-ordinator

The group has funding from Napier, Hastings and the regional councils to fund a cycle co-ordinator who would work on developing the plan.

Mrs Bowers said 10 years ago there were cycle paths around the region but these were built on an individual basis by councils and rotary clubs as their own projects.

“There wasn’t an understanding of cycling and its benefits at that time. We have made fantastic progress and there is huge potential for us as a region.”

Council chief executive Fergus Power said Wairoa’s beautiful coastline offered a lot of potential for the Space Coast Cycleway.

Mr Power said the views of launches should be possible along the coastline and beaches.

A potential path between Wairoa and Mahia could include an optional detour to Morere for visitor cyclists to have a soak in the hot springs before carrying on along the Space Coast Cycleway to Mahia.

Mr Power said it could possibly follow the existing railway line between Wairoa and Mahia but all options should be kept open.

Three test launches soon

Mr Power said Rocket Lab was expecting to conduct three test launches in the near future.

“Rocket Lab needs to go through a learning period to be operational so tourism opportunities won’t happen until the commercial launches.”

When it comes to cycling all the way to the Onenui Rocket Lab site, Mr Power said Rocket Lab would have intense security around its site and a high volume of tourists travelling close to the site could be a problem.

But there could be scope for a maritime viewing of launches.

“Cyclists could cycle to the coast, lock their bikes up and hop on a boat to watch the launches from the water,” he said.

Mr Power talked about the work on cycle paths the council had done through the town.

He said Whakamahia was neglected until about two years ago when the council began redevelopment work there.

Mr Power said council engineering manager Jamie Cox had been working on a development programme to place facilities such as the new toilets at Whakamahia and along the rest of the potential Space Coast for tourists.

Mr Power said space launch tourism in the Wairoa district was a “significant opportunity” for the council.

The Space Launch Tourism Project Scope Report being prepared by tourism expert Dave Bamford of TRC Tourism and the Giblin Group was near completion.

When combined with observations made during the initial test launch series, it would establish a solid basis for a proposal to be placed before Minister Joyce and MBIE seeking central government support.

A SPACE Coast Cycleway could be on track for Wairoa.

Wairoa District Council wants to develop a Space Coast Cycleway to tie in with international satellite launching company Rocket Lab.

The cycleway would connect Wairoa to Mahia and showcase the area’s coastal views.

The path would connect with rocket launch viewing areas for cyclists to stop and enjoy the space spectacle.

WDC last week met with the Regional Cycle Governance Group made up of representatives from around the Hawke’s Bay-Wairoa region.

Group chairwoman Cynthia Bowers said this was the first meeting the group had out of Napier, and it was important they visited Wairoa to get a feel for its potential.

“We are excited about the plans around Wairoa. It’s an exciting time for all of us,” she said.

Ms Bowers said the group was in the process of developing a regional cycle plan, which was a “big step forward”.

“The plan draws all ideas from the region, creating good linkages and co-ordinating all plans together.

“We want to ensure cycling is promoted and encourage more people to cycle. There’s an education factor to it as well."

Funding for a cycle co-ordinator

The group has funding from Napier, Hastings and the regional councils to fund a cycle co-ordinator who would work on developing the plan.

Mrs Bowers said 10 years ago there were cycle paths around the region but these were built on an individual basis by councils and rotary clubs as their own projects.

“There wasn’t an understanding of cycling and its benefits at that time. We have made fantastic progress and there is huge potential for us as a region.”

Council chief executive Fergus Power said Wairoa’s beautiful coastline offered a lot of potential for the Space Coast Cycleway.

Mr Power said the views of launches should be possible along the coastline and beaches.

A potential path between Wairoa and Mahia could include an optional detour to Morere for visitor cyclists to have a soak in the hot springs before carrying on along the Space Coast Cycleway to Mahia.

Mr Power said it could possibly follow the existing railway line between Wairoa and Mahia but all options should be kept open.

Three test launches soon

Mr Power said Rocket Lab was expecting to conduct three test launches in the near future.

“Rocket Lab needs to go through a learning period to be operational so tourism opportunities won’t happen until the commercial launches.”

When it comes to cycling all the way to the Onenui Rocket Lab site, Mr Power said Rocket Lab would have intense security around its site and a high volume of tourists travelling close to the site could be a problem.

But there could be scope for a maritime viewing of launches.

“Cyclists could cycle to the coast, lock their bikes up and hop on a boat to watch the launches from the water,” he said.

Mr Power talked about the work on cycle paths the council had done through the town.

He said Whakamahia was neglected until about two years ago when the council began redevelopment work there.

Mr Power said council engineering manager Jamie Cox had been working on a development programme to place facilities such as the new toilets at Whakamahia and along the rest of the potential Space Coast for tourists.

Mr Power said space launch tourism in the Wairoa district was a “significant opportunity” for the council.

The Space Launch Tourism Project Scope Report being prepared by tourism expert Dave Bamford of TRC Tourism and the Giblin Group was near completion.

When combined with observations made during the initial test launch series, it would establish a solid basis for a proposal to be placed before Minister Joyce and MBIE seeking central government support.

Tourism value unclear

by Suzi Lewis, Wairoa Star

FURTHER research will be done to assess the benefits of “rocket tourism” in Mahia after a new report pointed out a 20-kilometre land and marine exclusion zone would be in place during launches.

Auckland-based aerospace company Rocket Lab plans to launch rockets with commercial payloads into orbit from its launch pad at Onenui Station at the tip of the peninsula.

But a new “scoping study” questions if the 16-metre rockets would be visible with the naked eye during flight.
The study said while people could be “cautiously optimistic” of increased business opportunities, the value to tourism specifically remained unclear.

The report pointed out that viewing launches at close proximity was forbidden by regulatory requirements. With the closest public viewing point likely to be 20km away, it was uncertain to what extent launches would provide a viewing spectacle.

“On fine days, with good visibility, it is possible that the site and launch will be visible from somewhere more than 20km away. The rocket climbs to over 50,000 feet in altitude in a minute and a half. This altitude is almost 1.5 times as high as commercial aircraft cruise.

“The rocket itself will be exceedingly difficult to make out with the naked eye at this height.”

The report suggested Black’s Beach as the likely best site to view a launch. The mouth of Wairoa River, 47km away, is also an unconfirmed possibility.

Marine platforms outside the exclusion zone also had the potential to provide a view of launches.

Launches would not be visible from Mahia township.

Planned launches would have to take place within a four-hour window but while windows would be announced two weeks beforehand, there would be no public announcement of when a launch was imminent.

Rocket Lab had no plans to provide visitor services.

The report was co-funded by Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, Hawke’s Bay Tourism, Wairoa District Council, and Gisborne District Council/Activate Tairawhiti.

After receiving the report, HBRC’s corporate and strategic committee recommended further research be done into the potential for tourism as a result of the establishment of a Rocket Lab at Mahia Peninsula.

The committee endorsed the report’s recommendation that an inter-agency steering group be set up and that the council contribute up to $20,000 to fund further market research on rocket tourism and related infrastructure challenges and opportunities.

The recommendation will go to the full council for confirmation later this month.

Gisborne Mayor Meng Foon said the council would work closely with Wairoa and HBRC to get the most out of any potential economic opportunities and to maximise tourism opportunities of the rocket launches.

“This is a very special project for our region. It is important to work collaboratively to maximise the opportunities of economic development.”

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