Updates for Cathedral Cove walks, tracks and beaches that are open or closed
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Updates for Cathedral Cove walks, tracks and beaches that are open or closed

C Updated
Cathedral Cove July 2024

In 2023 the Cathedral Cove walking track was closed due to significant damage to the main walking track, landslides, rockfalls and the safety risks of land instability resulting from a number of severe weather events that affected the Coromandel region in early 2023. The Department of Conservation (DOC) are working on repairs and are offering alternative walks and experiences for visitors. This article shares the most recent announcements and updates from DOC on the Cathedral Cove recreational area in Hahei.


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The following information is provided via the Department of Conservation (DOC) sources. Information may be subject to change, see the DOC website homepage  or the DOC Cathedral Cove Walk pages for more details.

Please see the Things to do and Transport & getting around pages for local operators taking visitors to Cathedral Cove.

DOC Cathedral Cove update 10 July

Minister of Conservation Tama Potaka today announced distribution of International Visitor Levy funding – including $5 million to build, open and maintain overland walking access to Cathedral Cove.

The track to the globally famous beach was extensively damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle, leading to a decision to keep it closed until land had stabilised and an appropriate repair could be confirmed.

Tinaka Mearns, DOC’s Regional Director for Hauraki Waikato and Taranaki, says after assessment of several options, DOC is opting for a temporary walking access reinstatement solution which will see the track available to visitors for summer 2024/25.

“Last summer visitors surveyed rated the marine-based experience to Mautohe Cathedral Cove as one of the best offered to a DOC-managed site,” Tinaka says.

“Reinstating walking access enables DOC to further support local businesses and the community while working towards more sustainable and careful management of the site. This will be complimented with ongoing work, over the next 12-18 months, to develop a long-term visitor management solution.”

Tinaka Mearns - Department of Conservation Regional Director Hauraki Waikato and Taranaki

Tinaka says finding a way to traverse the worst landslide on the track has been a challenge. Undamaged sections of the track will be reconnected via a new boardwalk and steps across a section of land that is more stable than other potential reroutes. Steps at the bottom of the track, where it reaches the beach, will also be rebuilt.

“We know the community is keen to see reinstatement occur as soon as possible, but we need to factor in ground conditions, weather, and tendering and procurement processes before physical work can begin,” she says.

Visitor Risk mitigations

As well as the physical work at site to reinstate walking access, DOC will be introducing visitor risk mitigations to ensure safety of people walking the track. Those mitigations may include advising people not to use the track when weather or geotechnical-related risks are considered too high.

“A level of risk will always be present at this site – landslides and rockfalls will continue to be an ongoing feature of the landscape,” Tinaka says.

“Under-pinning the decision making and approaches we’re taking is the need to manage risk for the most prominent type of “day trip” visitor at Mautohe Cathedral Cove.”

The popular Grange Rd carpark in Hahei will remain closed while DOC works through the practicalities of public access to the reserve. The carpark received significant surface/foundation damage, slumping and cracking, through extreme weather events and heavy vehicle use. High level design and investment is required to mitigate these factors.

Temporary Solution

Tinaka says the reinstatement option chosen only presents a temporary walking access solution and may not last through extreme storm events like those which caused the damage and forced the closure – such as Cyclone Gabrielle.

“We will be doing some more work on a longer-term solution to develop a visitor management plan, and consultation with the community and stakeholders will be part of that work,” she says.

The planned visitor management work is supported by mana whenua Ngāti Hei, who previously voiced concerns about the high level of tourism impacting Mautohe Cathedral Cove and the risk to visitors.

Tinaka thanked stakeholders including Thames-Coromandel District Council, Destination Hauraki Coromandel and those who’ve contributed feedback to DOC’s recent consultation process on reinstatement options.

Tinaka says DOC understands the track closure has been a frustrating situation for local residents and businesses.

“We want to thank them for their patience. We’ve had to work through a complex set of overlapping issues to reach this point.”

29th May

The Department of Conservation have a public survey open and are collecting feedback. You may share your feedback on the reinstatement options. The survey will remain open until June 21 and is anonymous.

Survey link here

16 May

Two community 'drop-in' sessions will be held on Saturday 25th May and hosted by the Department of Conservation. The sessions will allow attendees to read information on the walking access reinstatement options being considered and talk to DOC staff about what those options entail.

Two community drop-in sessions will be held in:

Whitianga - 9.30am - 12pm
The Mercury Bay Community Boardroom 
– 10 Monk St, Whitianga

Hahei - 2.00 - 4.30pm 
The Hahei Community Hall
– 52 Hahei Beach Road, Hahei.

People attending the drop-in sessions can also respond to a DOC survey on reinstatement options. Those who cannot attend the drop-in sessions can email cathedralcove@doc.govt.nz to provide feedback. 

Feedback from the public will be included in decision-making processes.

30 April - three walking track options

Over the last few months, the Department of Conservation (DOC) have been gathering and analysing information needed to inform the possible options to reinstate walking access to Cathedral Cove.

We’ve examined long-term and short-term options – work guided by the legislation we operate within, the values and cultural heritage of Ngāti Hei, as well as what can be practically achieved at the site.

We need to balance the impact of visitor tourism, the economic value of that tourism, the costs and benefits of the options, and the likely impact of climate change at a coastal site where land movement has been an issue for some time.

Department of Conservation website update

Attached at the end of this article, is a presentation which explains the options that are being considered and explored by DOC. This is part of their wider engagement work with the Coromandel community which continues over the coming weeks.

Three options being considered for walking track

According to information provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC), three options are currently under consideration for walking access to the beach. One option entails a short-term solution, involving the construction of new steps and a boardwalk to reinstate a section of the existing track. The other two options are long-term repairs that would require significant investment and the installation of new infrastructure, including potentially cantilevered staircase and steps to the beach. Consequently, these long-term options would necessitate more time for design, procurement, and completion.

In addition to these primary options, alternative approaches are being explored as part of the development process. This includes considering visitor entry points from the Hahei Short Walk, optimising an existing entrance at Grange Road, and assessing the feasibility of access over adjacent farmland.

The preservation of Ngāti Hei values is being prioritised as DOC evaluates these options. Furthermore, alignment with various conservation legislation and community perspectives is being taken into account, presenting opportunities for collaboration while acknowledging the need for compromise.

DOC aims to balance various factors, including costs and investment risk, resilience against future weather events, and mitigating environmental and social impacts on what has historically been a heavily visited site.

Community Engagement in Progress

The Department of Conservation (DOC), community engagement efforts are currently underway to gather insights and perspectives for Mautohe Cathedral Cove.

Over the coming months, a series of initiatives are planned to facilitate engagement:

  • Stakeholder engagement sessions
  • A community survey
  • A community drop-in session

These activities aim to involve partners, stakeholders, and the community in the decision-making process. Collaboration with Ngāti Hei is central to these efforts, with proactive engagement with identified key stakeholders preceding broader community feedback.

DOC says it is dedicated to fostering collaborative relationships and maximising opportunities for community participation. Close coordination with Thames-Coromandel District Council and Destination Hauraki Coromandel is prioritised to ensure that community voices are heard and considered.

5 April 2024

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is currently engaged in developing a sustainable solution for reopening walking access to Mautohe Cathedral Cove. Given the landscape's susceptibility to landslides and rockfalls, the primary focus is on ensuring the track's safe reopening in a practical manner.

Based on the Tonkin + Taylor 2023 report, which employed DOC's Natural Hazard Risk Analysis methodology, recommendations were made to review the site and explore feasible risk reduction measures. The ongoing review process encompasses several key aspects:

  • Landslide predictive modeling: This assesses the future resilience of the land.
  • Geotechnical monitoring: To determine the stabilization status of the land and assess remaining risks, particularly after the exceptionally wet conditions experienced in 2023.
  • Identification of options for resilient walking track access to Mautohe Cathedral Cove beach.
  • Development of practical visitor risk mitigations.

Progress Made This Year:

In February, a summer visitor experience survey was conducted with the support of Ngāti Hei, providing valuable insights into visitor perceptions. In March, a site assessment was conducted by DOC, Ngāti Hei, and technical experts to explore access and infrastructure options, with further investigations pending. A new landslide predictive model was commissioned in March, indicating a high likelihood of future landslides under different storm conditions. Community engagement efforts, supported by Ngāti Hei, Thames-Coromandel District Council, and Destination Hauraki Coromandel, are currently underway.

Upcoming Developments:

Geotechnical monitoring results are expected by June 2024. Feasibility assessments for resilient walking access options are due to be presented to the Minister by June 2024. High Satisfaction Levels from 2024 Visitor Survey:

Visitor Survey results are in

The 2024 visitor survey results reveal remarkably high levels of satisfaction with Mautohe Cathedral Cove, despite the track closure. Key findings from the survey, conducted from January 27th to February 29th, include:

  • Mautohe Cathedral Cove maintains its status as a top New Zealand visitor destination.
  • Overall satisfaction with the experience is rated the highest among all DOC-managed destinations in the country.
  • The method of accessing the Cove, currently limited to boat or kayak, does not significantly impact visitor satisfaction.
  • Scenery and landscapes are cited as the primary attractions for visitors.
  • Facilities and services, particularly water transport frequency and safety information, received high ratings.

Community Engagement Initiatives:

Community information sessions, stakeholder updates, and surveys are being conducted to gather input and ensure widespread participation in decision-making processes.

Collaboration with Ngāti Hei, Thames-Coromandel District Council, and Destination Hauraki Coromandel is ongoing to facilitate community involvement and support.

The timeline and approach for future developments are subject to change as options are evaluated and community engagement progresses. Stay tuned for further updates.

1 March

Conservation Minister Tama Potaka confirms that the reinstatement of the walking access to Cathedral Cove before the summer of 2024/25 is a priority.

It’s clear we need to make sure visitors can once again safely and fully enjoy one of the country's iconic locations – and DOC staff have made this a priority, ideally, we want safe walking access to the beach reinstated and our ambition is to have it ready for visitors next summer. 

Cathedral Cove/Te Whanganui-a-Hei is a crucial part of Coromandel’s tourism economy and reinstating walking access to it will help get the district back on track. I expect to receive advice from officials by the end of June on the reinstatement options. Assuming there is a safe option for public walking access, I want to see the mahi procured and underway ahead of summer.

There are some further conversations to be had with Ngāti Hei, the Coromandel community and our stakeholders in the district about how this work is resourced and supported. In its present condition the track is not safe for visitors – and DOC is focussed on finding a resilient solution which will give visitors the chance to again walk to this majestic place.

Hon Tama Potaka - Minister Conservation

26 January 2024

Community Engagement Initiates

DOC have commenced community engagement activities, utilising three distinct surveys aimed at gathering feedback from visitors, residents, and local businesses. This engagement process is crucial in understanding public sentiments towards Cathedral Cove, identifying preferred options, and assessing the likelihood of success.

Visitor Survey Launching 27th January

Starting from January 27th and extending until mid-February, the Department of Conservation (DOC) will be conducting a comprehensive visitor survey for Cathedral Cove.

This survey is open to all Cathedral Cove visitors and serves the purpose of gauging their expectations, contributing valuable insights to shape the future visitor experience. Trained DOC staff will be stationed at either Hahei Beach or the Whitianga Wharf throughout the survey period. They will approach visitors disembarking from water transport from Cathedral Cove, inviting them to complete a brief questionnaire after their visit.

The questionnaire is a slightly modified version of DOC's Short Walk/Day Hike questionnaire, previously administered at Cathedral Cove during four summer seasons (2017-2021). The aggregated results will be made publicly available.

Doc would like to extend their gratitude to local marine operators for providing information on their schedules during the Auckland Anniversary weekend. This ensures our ability to intercept as many visitors as possible upon their return from Cathedral Cove.

Residents' and Business Survey

Residents and businesses can anticipate receiving more details about local engagement and feedback opportunities starting from February. Stay tuned for ways to share your perspectives on the future of Cathedral Cove.

January 2024

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has implemented visitor arrangements for the Cathedral Cove/Hahei area for summer 2023/24 as part of an effort to support the Coromandel tourism economy. These measures are in place while the walking track to Cathedral Cove beach remains closed for safety reasons.

DOC's summer offer for the Cathedral Cove/Hahei area is designed to distribute walking visitors across various sites, including Hereheretaura and Te Pare, Grange Road Lookout, and a loop track from the Lees Road Car Park to McHand's Lookout, located to the north of Cathedral Cove.

Cathedral Cove Track images

Cathedral Cove Beach Access

In the summer of 2023-24, Cathedral Cove itself will provide a marine-based experience, with several commercial operators offering services that include brief stays on the beach. The international marketing of Cathedral Cove emphasises this marine-based experience.

Both DOC and Ngāti Hei continue to advise against using the walking track down to Cathedral Cove, emphasising its unsafe condition and confirming that it will not be reinstated for summer 2023-24. Barriers will be in place to prevent access, and visitors are urged not to proceed beyond them. Geotechnical experts have identified a high risk associated with using the track compared to similar locations managed by DOC.

What you need to know when visiting Cathedral Cove

The Cathedral Cove Walk track is currently closed. The only access to the area is by boat.

There are significant risks associated with high rockfall and landslides in the vicinity, as indicated in the image provided by the Department of Conservation (DOC).

For those who choose to visit the area, it is strongly advised to adhere to the following precautions:

  • Maintain a safe distance of 10 metres from the cliffs at all times.
  • Avoid the beach during or after heavy rainfall, as the risk of rockfalls and landslides is highest during these conditions. It's crucial to note that such incidents can also occur in good weather.
  • Refrain from standing or walking under the cove's arch, as rockfalls have occurred in this area and may happen again.
  • Stay off tracks within the vicinity.
  • Exercise caution regarding falling rocks at the north-western end of the beach at Stingray Bay – this specific area is closed.

If individuals are uncomfortable with the associated risks, it is recommended to view the area from a boat rather than landing on the beach, or consider not visiting the area altogether.

Furthermore, it is essential to be aware of the rapid and unpredictable changes in weather conditions that are characteristic of this location. Visitors should be prepared for sudden weather shifts and plan accordingly.

Safety at Cathedral Cove

Alternative walking options at Cathedral Cove

An update on visitor experiences in Hahei includes the creation of alternative experiences near Cathedral Cove, ensuring that visitors to Coromandel can still appreciate the beauty of the coastline. These experiences, developed through collaboration between DOC, Ngāti Hei, and operators, encourage visitors to explore other beaches and walks in the Mercury Bay area, specifically targeting day trip visitors.

Improvements to existing tracks and the creation of new routes to culturally significant sites, such as historic pa Hereheretaura and Te Pare, have been undertaken. Tiaki Rangers, employed by DOC, caution visitors about the ongoing safety risk at Cathedral Cove while providing information on other nearby coastal walking locations and sharing Ngāti Hei cultural stories.

Parking for Cathedral Cove

The Grange Road platform in Hahei offers sweeping views across the Mercury Islands and Te Whanganui-o-Hei Marine Reserve. It will serve as a drop-off-only location with no parking options, and pedestrians can access the Grange Road lookout point. Seating and picnic areas have been established, and traffic flows will be monitored collaboratively by DOC and Thames-Coromandel District Council.

Lees Road Access to Cathedral Cove Lookout (McHands Lookout)

A new loop track to McHand's Lookout has been completed, accessed via the Lees Road carpark. This 90-minute return track provides expansive views over Te Whanganui-O-Hei Marine Reserve and the greater Mercury Bay.

Photos

Updates of Cathedral Cove walks, tracks and beaches that are open or closed
Aerial photo of Cathedral Cove

Attachments

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  • Options and solutions under consideration for Mautohe Cathedral Cove
    Download the Options and solutions under consideration for Mautohe Cathedral Cove (30 April 2024)
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