A master plan setting out an ambitious plan for a network of trails connecting Wairarapa’s five towns has been finalised.

The master plan is available at the Five Towns Trail website: www.fivetownstrail.co.nz.

The Wairarapa Five Towns Trail Network project aims to develop almost 200km of recreational trails for walking and cycling, linking Martinborough, Featherston, Greytown, Carterton and Masterton.

The goal is to grow community wealth through developing outstanding trail-based experiences, and provide improved liveability and health outcomes for residents and visitors.

It will provide locals and visitors with access to a fantastic network of safe, accessible trails, which will provide considerable wellbeing benefits.

Development of the network will also create jobs and generate millions of dollars a year from visitors travelling to Wairarapa to access the trails.

The Wairarapa Five Towns Trail Network aligns with the Wellington Regional Trails Framework, and the Wairarapa Economic Development Strategy, and was developed from a concept conceived by the Five Towns Trails Trust to connect Wairarapa’s towns. The project is now being led by Wairarapa Trails Action Group (WTAG).

WTAG members include South Wairarapa, Carterton and Masterton District Councils, Greater Wellington Regional Council, Department of Conservation, Destination Wairarapa, and a number of Wairarapa-based trails trusts.

WTAG Chair and Carton Mayor Greg Lang said development of the master plan was an important first step in making the network a reality.

“The routes in the master plan are indicative, not precise blueprints for the trails network, but the master plan enables the start of conversations with landowners and communities, and provides a level of detail that will facilitate applications for the external funding that will pay for the bulk of this work over the next 10 years or more.

“The ‘shovel ready’ funding for the Tauherenikau walking and cycle bridge is an example of how trails can be funded without putting a burden on ratepayers.”

The bridge project received $1.3 million in funding last year as part of the Government’s package of COVID-19 recovery measures.

Mayor Lang said the Five Towns Network aimed to make the most of Wairarapa’s untapped potential as a destination.

“The goal is a series of off-road trails that increase outdoor recreation opportunities for residents and visitors, to get more people more active more often, on safe, accessible trails.

From its beautiful rivers, lakes, and coastlines to internationally recognised parks, Wairarapa offers untapped potential for a unique visitor experience.”

Masterton Mayor Lyn Patterson said the Five Towns Trail project complemented work already being planned by councils.

“Masterton District Council last year approved construction of a new walking and a cycle bridge across the Waipoua River to provide easy access to Oxford Street Reserve from the trail on the south side of the river, and construction is now scheduled to begin in the New Year.

“We are proud of our network of recreational trails and this project will expand what is available to residents and visitors.”

South Wairarapa Mayor Alex Beijen said construction of the new walking and cycle bridge over the Tauherenikau River showed what was possible.

“This is a major project that is likely to take 10 years or more to complete, but the bridge project is a great start. And by accessing external funding, using the master plan, it can be a win-win for ratepayers and residents.”