Hamlins Hill MTB Trails, Auckland
Updated Jul 2011
The Maori name for the hill means "the end of many battles" and related to the fact that many battles were fought for control of this strategic access way between the two large harbours of the Waitemata and the Manukau. Both harbours were tremendous sources of seafood and easy access past Mutukaroa to this food source was highly desirable.
On the northern part of the Hill are remnants of early European farming activities, including stone wall fences and hawthorn hedges which will be studiously preserved throughout any work/activity on the park (as well as - we hope - signage to inform visitors about this). These were constructed by the farmers who would have had to carry these rocks from nearby volcanic quarries. There are several significant areas of both cultural and archaeological importance.
In more recent times a number of freezing works in the surrounding district used the hill's fertile grazing as holding paddocks. There is still a degree of farming on the hill to maintain a 'country side setting'.
The largest 'hill' part of the park at the southern end has a sharp drop on the north side - evidence of quarrying that occurred during the 1950's. In fact we are lucky to have this park at all as plans were afoot back then to level the whole area for housing.
It was well over 10 years ago when the then Auckland City Council offered this park as a location for a network of off-road (mountainbike) trails and the local clubs at the time were pretty enthusiastic. They were, after all, being told they couldn't have trails at One Tree Hill, Craigavon, Mt Eden, Grafton Gully and many other city areas with wonderful potential for this active recreation activity.
The Counties Manukau MTB Club even ran an event or two there to build the hype. But sadly the MTB community was to be let down with so much politics and red tape that we all but gave up hope. And so for another entire decade, the great city of Auckland lagged behind the rest of NZ and the world having an embarrassing lack of any offroad cycling trails. Many promises were made, many dollars were spent on wonderful brochures about policy, but nothing happened.
And so Gabb was a somewhat cynical cyclewaynewzealand.co.nz representative for MTB when he attended a meeting with the new Super City Parks Division mid 2011 for a discussion with interested parties on the way forward for offroad cycling in Auckland parks.
However, things looked way more positive in that the council representatives were telling us the policies are in place, locations have been selected and it is now time to make things happen. And especially promising was a presentation from Senior Ranger Wayne Carlson about Hamlins Hill. It was quite a surprise to find out that the Concept Plan for this park was still being followed and Wayne had been prominent in ensuring any work there kept in line with the idea that there would be MTB trails as per the now 10 year old plan.
So Gabb walked away from the meeting somewhat hyped (there was good news about the Hunua Trails too) and arranged to meet with Wayne on location to simply take a look at the park as it is now and discuss the plans forward from here. Gabb was particularly keen to avoid a repeat of the costly Totara Park project that appeared to involve minimal feedback from actual riders.
And so it was a rather extreme winters day that Gabb met up with Wayne and 2 other representatives of the local MTb community, Simon Yates of the Auckland MTB Club with his trusty canine pal Lou Lou and Peter Stoneham of Underground Trailblazers who knows more than most about the frustrations of trying to get trails happening in the city.
It was a great walk around and very enlightening. The 3 bikers agreed that the potential was strong to provide Aucklanders with a wonderful opportunity to enjoy riding their bikes away from the dangers of the roads and without the need to drive over 30km to either Woodhill or Hunua (or, as many do, 200km to Rotorua).
One of the good aspects was that during revegetation of the hill over the last 10 years, a minimum width of 3 meters clearance has been kept in blocks where volunteer tree planting had occured. This will allow for good contouring of the final trail, allowing for lots of flowing twists and shallow turns that will excite all levels of rider and make the trail longer.
Speaking of contours, there is plenty of elevation changes offered over the length of the proposed trail and as long as track designers keep flow in mind, this will offer a great ride for many 1000's of Aucklanders and visitors (there are over half a million people living within a 10km radius of the park! - imagine how many people will discover the joys of mountainbiking due to this trail).
cyclewaynewzealand.co.nz photographer Len Skap was there to give us a perspective of the park and the proposed trail. If you think this is a great idea from Auckland City then we encourage you to drop Wayne a line and show your support. There are still many hurdles still to overcome and having real support from the community can really make a difference. You can contact Wayne at [wayne's email address with permission]
Stay tuned for updates but meanwhile please enjoy the pics...
Forward Planning - There has been some wonderful volunteer work done on Hamlins Hill with over 10,000 native trees and shrubs planted by 100's of keen helpers - both locals and visitors (and of course some mountainbikers) - organised by Park Rangers. Naturally it would be counter active to sacrifice these plants when the time comes to weave the trails through the park and so Rangers mark out a 3 meter wide gap in advance of planting that follows the trail as per the Concept Plan. Wide enough to ensure a great flowing track! (the plants in this shot are approximately 3 years old).
Sharing Ideas - Simon Yates from the Auckland MTB Club discusses things cycling with Ranger Wayne Carlson as Peter gazes across the central fauna stand with Mt Wellington behind across the Southern Motorway.
Gated Community - On the east side of the park is a shallow gully that features some of the most mature fauna, the result of volunteer planting around 1999.
Sunny Outlook - Almost like a divine statement, the sun broke out as the team explored the most mature stand of trees in the center of the park.
Already There - In the central area is a very short example of some trails weaving through strands of 10yr+ manuka, puriri, cabbage trees and other native.
A Sign of the Times - Recognition of some volunteers and their hard work making this park a pleasure to visit.
Tip Top View - Peter enjoys a view towards Totara Park in Manukau south of the park.
The Climb - Ranger Wayne Carlson begins a climb up another gap amoungst the planting. This one however is an easeway for a Watercare pipe running beneath the park.
Rugged - with the Manukau Harbour as a backdrop, the steep south side features some rugged foliage bent into (or is it out of) shape by strong winds. Looks like it may be a head wind grind around this side over the benched trail.
Panoramic - From the higher level of the south end looking north to the start point of the trail which features fauna planted around 2008.
Decent Descent - There is already a walking track from the summit. The Concept Plan allows for many activities to exist in harmony: walking trails and cattle farming more within the center of the park riding around the perimeter.
At the top - Looking south over some sort of marker towards the Hunau Ranges, Parks Ranger Wayne Carlson points out another feature as the trail curves back towards the return Gt South Rd carpark via the steep south face.
Storm Damage - Here our intrepid crew negotiate the rugged southern side of the main hill. In the distance is some of the industrial region marking the end of the Pikes Point Cycleway (which of course will need to link up with Hamlins Hill) and beyond is Mangere Mountain where many more kilometers of offroad cycling is already available to you via the Manukau Harbour Cycleway.
Lone Ranger - Good on ya Wayne. Already the mountainbike community of Auckland owe you their thanks.