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Bridging the North Auckland gaps

“It’s only a matter of time before the roads are too busy, and after COVID, we’ve all realised how important it is to be within commuting distance. It’s good for everything, your health, your work-life balance, your wellbeing,” says Shelley’s partner, Gary Heaven.  

Shelley Trotter, owner of Solway Deer Farm has a goal to connect Snells Beach and Warkworth with public access trails. Solway Deer Farm will potentially host up to 4 km of trail. Providing important off-road connections between Warkworth, Snells Beach and Matakana. But Shelley and Gary aren’t just connecting towns, they’re connecting communities.  

Shelley building bridges

There are 7.8km between Snells Beach and Warkworth but “we’re only 3 to 4 km either side, so we’re in the best place,” says Shelley. Shelley and Gary have been nestled in rural North Auckland for a while, “but time moves fast around here.” 

Shelley’s uncle Roger lives just down the road and her son, the next house over. The family have periodically farmed in the Duck Creek sub-catchment of the Mahurangi River for five generations. Five, to be exact. Shelley can remember growing up in the house Roger now occupies before she moved just across the paddock.  

The roads that lead between Matakana, Warkworth and Snells Beach are becoming increasingly busy with commuters, visitors and recreationalists. Shelley and Gary are working with Auckland Council, the Matakana Coastal Trails Trust and the Walking Access Commission to turn their idea into reality. 

Once they get funding, this project could take two years to complete and be an asset for North Aucklanders. Chris Charles, regional field advisor and Pūhoi to Pakiri programme manager, explains, “we know that locals really value amenities on trails, so we plan to provide everything from coffee to freshwater stops and restrooms.

Creating more public access trails will also take cars off the road and onto two wheels or foot. This will help connect people to their jobs, their communities and their neighbours. This project is already in motion.


Matakana Coast Trail Trust plan

Another 1.3km is the Farm-Forest Trail off Sandspit Road and on uncle Roger’s farm. It’s already formed and the easement in place. The trail passes through farm forestry, managed tōtara regrowth, four bridges and hidden fairy doors.