Our Story

Banks Track – Our Story

Banks Track is a co-operative of neighbouring properties, which has worked together for more than twenty seven years. Income diversification was the only way out of the depression that gripped farming in the 1980s. Some tried a variety of stock, such as goat and deer, other tried forestry or other horticultural endeavours. Out here on the “Wildside” of Banks Peninsula a diverse group of individual landowners developed “The Banks Peninsula Track”.

The four-day Banks Peninsula Track (with a two day option) grew into a “must-do” activity for many walkers from both New Zealand and overseas. Retirement of one landowner in 2017 resulted in change, so after 27 years the four-day track has become the three-day classic walk (with a two-day hikers option). These three days offer everything the four days were able to offer except a visit to one bay. This three night format suits the modern working era.

Each landowner is responsible for the track that runs through their land and the accommodation they provide. Together, the landowners, and a few helpers, manage the finances, booking system, health and safety, marketing etc. It is a traditional family run Peninsula business.

This diversity of ownership, coupled with such a range of landscape, makes the Banks Track not only the original, but also the most unique private tramping track in New Zealand.

Track Building and Maintenance

Building the original Banks Track was a team effort with laughter, logisitics and lots of sore muscles. Each landowner now takes responsibilty for their section of the track and each year two track inspections are carried out; one at the beginning of the season and one mid season. More information follows.

Building the Track

In the late 1980s local identities Lynne Alexander of Tree Crop Farms and Jeff Hamilton of Ōnuku Farm came up with the idea of a loop track from Akaroa through the south east bays and back to the township again. Jeff talked to all the landowners along the proposed route (at that time there were nine properties and eleven families involved). The idea of an income-generating walk to diversify livelihoods after some difficult farming years of drought and falling prices, seemed appealing. At the same time the Maurice White Native Forest Trust was beginning to establish Hinewai Reserve.

Co-operative activity saw a 35km track formed, bridges, boardwalks and stiles constructed, hundreds of marker posts dug in, signage erected, overnight ‘huts’ and day shelters built, and all the background organisation started, that was to blossom into a successful, low-key venture in green tourism.

We opened in 1989. 296 people walked the Banks Peninsula Track during that first short season.

Individual landowners were primarily responsible for forming their own sections of track, but the whole team pooled resources when needed. For example, midwinter 1992 saw most of us at Flea Bay, giving the Helps a hand with their ambitious re-routing of the Track down the wild Flea Bay Gully with its beautiful forest and waterfalls. Previously the route had followed a much less interesting farm track.

In 2017 the Narbeys of Ōtānerito retired from the Banks Peninsula Track. The company had two options, either close down the whole operation, or find another route. Thus for several months Hinewai staff and helpers forged a new track up the Stony Bay Valley. First they thoroughly explored the terrain, before marking out with tags the best and most practical route. They then cut their way through a rich variety of vegetation – kānuka forest, young mixed hardwood forest, thick gorse scrub, majestic tall red beech forest and snow tussock scrubland.

Benching followed – cutting out a flat walking surface by spade. They added wooden steps on steep stretches, footbridges and boardwalks across streams and gaps, signs, and numerous white-topped posts as markers. They also designed a small shelter on the days highest ground, which looks back down valley to Stony Bay.

Banks Track Maintenance

Forming the track is the first step. Constant maintenance is then required to keep the 29 kilometres fully walkable. As with track formation, each land-owning family looks after their own section. This work involves cutting back encroaching vegetation, including bush lawyer vines that like to clutch at passing walkers and ongaonga bushes that sting.

 

Benched surfaces often need re-spading, drainage channels need re-digging, steps need repairing, marker posts need re-painting, signs and stiles need re-nailing or replacing, long grass and bracken need mowing, etc. After gales, windfalls can block the track completely and must be sawn up and removed.

At the beginning of each season the “track inspectors” (one or two of us) walk the whole track, and all the side tracks if there is enough time, checking details of walkability and safety. It is an enjoyable job! Bridges and safety barriers get particular attention. A chatty report follows, circulated to all landowners, alerting them to anything that need attention.

In the middle of each season a small team (usually two) makes a follow-up inspection. They carry some basic tools and materials so that any small jobs requiring attention anywhere along the track can be attended to on the spot. We call it the “mid-season maintenance foray”. It’s also useful to get feedback from walkers along the way; they often see things which we might not notice because we know the track so well.

If you recently noticed anything you believe requires attention while you walked the track, contact us to let us know.

Banks Track Concessions

Mount Vernon Lodge - Car parking

Mount Vernon Lodge provides car parking for Banks Track walkers at the top of Rue Balguerie. Mt Vernon have been associated with the BanksTrack since the track began in 1989.

Department of Conservation

The Banks Track holds concessions from the Department of Conservation for its walkers to pass through the DOC reserve, Tutakahahikura (originally gifted to the nation by the Helps’ family) at the top of Flea Bay and also the penguin colony reserve alongside the Pohatu Marine Reserve.

Smail's land crossing

Between Hinewai Reserve’s Tara Track (at the head of the Stony Bay Valley) and Purple Peak Track (the decent into Akaroa), Paripai Track traverses about 900 metres of private land just below the northwest boundary of Hinewai Reserve. This is thanks to the friendly co-operation of landowners James and Tracey Smail.