The Waiheke Walking Festival was initiated by Auckland Council in 2011 and for the first two years, the Hauraki Gulf Conservation Trust played a minimal role, acting mainly as a conduit for funding in conjunction with the Waiheke Local Board and various sponsors. In 2013 the Trust took over the running of the Festival and, although the Festival sat on the edge of the Trust’s vision and objectives, the Trust utilised it to showcase the beautiful natural environment and to promote conservation.
The Festival has become increasingly popular and in 2012 was the proud winner of the inaugaral Outdoors New Zealand Event Award. In 2013, the Festival offered 38 fully attended free walks, some with expert guides or celebrities such as author Janet Hunt, TVNZ reporter John Hudson and Sir Graham Henry. 2014 saw the Festival grow to 45 walks with approx 2,000 registrations and an estimated 800 walkers. It was also an opportunity to introduce elements of Te Ara Hura (the 100km around Waiheke Walkway).The Finale saw locals SIr Peter Leitch and Sir Graham Henry team up on the BBQ! The 2015 Festival included 46 walks, 2 social events, and the inaugural Te Ara Loop Adventure. 2016’s Festival was the biggest yet with 50 walks including the Te Ara Hura Loop adventure again, 2200 registrations and approx 1500 walkers.
Regular sponsors have included the Waiheke Local Board/Auckland Council, Fullers, Foundation North, Lotteries Commission, Macpac and Sealink. Other local businesses that have been involved include, Stay Waiheke, Simply B, EcoZip, Dead Dog Bay Wetland Garden and Sculpture, Te Whau,The Batch, Peacock Sky , Passage Rock, Man O’War , Casita Miro, The Goldie Room, Mudbrick and Kennedy Point Vineyards, and Local photographers Emma Hughes, Peter Rees and Phillipa Kahn. Without their support and contribution the Festival would not function as it does.
The Trust recognised the support of the previous Waiheke Community Board and the current Waiheke Local Board in creating, extending and improving the network of over 80 km of public walkways on Waiheke Island. Without their vision and commitment, this Festival would not be possible.
Several private landowners, many of whom have a passion for enhancing the natural environment and for conservation, have also generously made their properties available, providing access to usually unseen parts of the Island, such as Rorohara, Te Matuku and Man of War Station.
The Festival appeals to both locals, Aucklanders, NZ and overseas visitors (from as far as field as the UK, Europe, The US, South America, South Africa etc). Many come over and stay for the whole 9 days inputing valuable dollars, during the “Shoulder Season”, into the local economy. For further information and details of this years festival, please see www.waihekewalkingfestival.org.
From 1 April 2017 the ownership of the Festival was transferred to the Waiheke Walking Trust who’s Trustees include John & Jo Gow, Tessa Shaw, Tim Huston and Denise Whitfield who has run the Festival for the Trust over the last 4 years. The HGCT is delighted the Festival is now in a Trust focused around walking on Waiheke and can continue to focus its attention on Conservation project knowing the Festival is in good hands.