Donor of cycle path money under fire

The donor who stumped up $240,000 to build a foreshore pathway past holidaymakers' homes has been accused of putting up the money to help preserve his own patch of paradise.

Matt Purvis and his wife, Heather, gave the money to Taupo to extend a 10km foot-and-cycleway another 1.7km along Five Mile Bay.

The gift ruffled feathers as concrete began to be laid, with those owning holiday homes objecting so strongly over the type of path that they convinced Taupo District Council to build a special 80m section of plastic and grass matting.

Among those frustrated over a lack of consultation and subsequent concreting of a grassy reserve were Tourism Industry Association boss Martin Snedden and Wellington cardiologist Malcolm Abernethy.

The row followed local tensions over access by cars to the reserve - which have emerged again amid the spat over the path. Council consultation saw a large number of people back continued car access, frustrating some of those living on the reserve.

"It is a great offer but a loaded offer," said Dr Abernethy of the donation. "[Mr Purvis] wanted vehicles off the access to his part of the reserve."

He said Mr Purvis had followed the building of the cycle path by placing rocks to block cars from a section of reserve near his home.

The meeting at which the gift was accepted by the Taupo District Council is on YouTube - along with the assurance no bollards would be put in place at the reserve.

But Mr Purvis said the rocks - about 25m from his home - were needed to protect the path. He said cars had been driven along the reserve and over the new pathway in the lead-up to Christmas.

"Council had done nothing to protect the path." He had prompted the council for a solution - without success.

The former transport company owner decided to fix the problem himself. He arranged a truckload of rocks from a local quarry, got a couple of bobcat diggers and created a protective barrier which allowed cars partial access to the reserve but not across the path. "The only reason the rocks are there is to protect the concrete walkway and to protect the people using the walkway."

Mayor David Trewavas said the council would examine the issues - including the special matting - in February.

Council officer John Ridd said Mr Purvis "had our blessing" in placing the rocks. "There was a problem with vehicle access across the path."

He said he wanted to find a solution which suited all. "Matt [Purvis] is a lovely fellow and it was a decent donation. Martin is a great guy and does a lot for this town."

- David Fisher of the New Zealand Herald

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