Cows damage track to monument

If a soldier who fought in World War 1 was to walk up the Soldiers' Monument track on the Otago Peninsula today, the churned-up earth and damaged vegetation might remind him of the battlefields of Verdun or the Somme.

However, the damage recently caused on the track was not the work of shells and gunfire but of cattle which had apparently escaped from nearby farmland.

It appears that some time since Anzac Day, cows pushed through the fence dividing the path from a neighbouring paddock. Their enthusiastic grazing along the path has turned it into a wasteland of dirt and droppings.

Almost all the plants, including flax and other native bush, bordering the path have been chewed. The damage was brought to the attention of The Star by Waverley resident Wayne Allen, who came across it while jogging on the path last Saturday.

''I worked for 20 years as a professional gardener and in that time I never saw such devastation,'' he said.

''It almost brought a tear to my eye. I feel sorry for the people who have been planting through there,'' he said.

Mr Allen believed the churned-up path would be dangerous, especially after heavy rain. Someone might fall and twist their ankle, he said.

The fence dividing the track from farmland looked like it had not been strong enough to keep out the cows and they had been able to push through in several locations, he said.

The wayward cows theory was confirmed when a Star reporter was sent to examine the scene. Two cows could clearly be seen munching flax on the track, but they beat a hasty retreat before they could be photographed.

Muddy tracks could be seen leading to several parts of the fence where the wires were twisted and covered in clumps of hair. It was not clear when the damage had occurred, but Mr Allen had gone to the monument on Anzac Day and at that time the path had been undamaged.

DCC parks manager Lisa Wheeler said contractors examined the site on Tuesday afternoon. One cattle beast was found on the track and had to be shooed away.

Although the cows had heavily muddied the track, it was still in a usable condition and would not be closed, she said. A sign would be put up warning users about the uneven surface.

The track was in a difficult location and it was likely that helicopters would be needed to transport gravel for the repairs. Ms Wheeler estimated the repairs would cost ''a couple of thousand dollars''. Repairs would take place shortly but would be weather dependent.

The plants had not been too badly damaged and most would recover, Ms Wheeler said.

The council would be discussing the issue with the neighbouring farmer and working with him to ensure the cows did not get on to the track again, she said.

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