By David Hill
Rain and mud hardly seemed out of place at the launch of the Passchendaele Memorial Cycle/Walkway at Kaiapoi on Monday.
Heavy rain greeted the sod turnings for the Kaiapoi to Rangiora cycle and walkway, named to mark next month’s Battle of Passchendaele centenary, and the Woodend to Rangiora cycle and walkway, but no-one was complaining.
“We’ve done our best to replicate the conditions of Passchendaele,” Waimakariri District Council chief executive Jim Palmer joked as he welcomed invited guests on the bank of the Kaiapoi River, at the start of Passchendaele Memorial Cycle/Walkway.
The first sod was turned by Waimakariri Mayor David Ayers, MP Matt Doocey and former Passchendaele Memorial Museum chairman Freddy Declerck.
Mr Declerck was joined by Zonnebeke District Council chief executive, Francis Claeys who said it was “a real privilege” to know the Passchendaele name was being remembered in New Zealand.
He said there were cycle and walkways were being developed in the Passchendaele area, including a New Zealand trail to make the World War 1 trenches and landscape more accessible.
Mr Doocey said it was “fantastic” to see work on the cycleways finally getting under way.
“We did have a few hurdles to overcome, including the 30,000 population threshold, but we were able to combine to populations of Kaiapoi and Rangiora to get over that threshold.
“I must admit, I’m a bit reluctant a few days out from an election to be seen digging a hole.”
Mr Ayers said it was appropriate to be opening the cycleways and using the Passchendaele name on the eve of the Battle of Passchedaele centenary on October 12.
“Eventually we will be able to ride from Ashley River all the way to Christchurch on cycleways and alongside the roads – it’s pretty exciting for our district.”