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
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
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.