The visionary project to create a public outdoor education and recreation park around the new lake filling a former mine at Kimihia in Huntly is in part being enabled by a trust originally established to build a school camp near Raglan.

The Huntly Karioi Trust was established in 1972 to facilitate outdoor education opportunities for the students of Huntly College. It was incorporated the following year, as camping and other outdoor training classes were getting underway at the College.

By 1976 the Trust had raised in excess of $30,000, a significant amount at the time, achieved with the support of the College’s staff, local farmers and the community at large.

Two significant fundraisers had been a raffle for a new car, and the running of a relay from Wellington to Huntly in just under 44 hours by nine students, including Lynda Topp, and teacher Brian Curle, pictured below.

That year the Trust purchased the 107-acre block of land they had been eyeing on the seaward side of Mount Karioi, some six kilometres south of Raglan township and 800 metres inland from the coastal road south to Ruapuke. They were then gifted four large accommodation blocks that had been built, but never required, for the construction site of the Huntly Power Station, and soon after a large kitchen-dining room was added.

A view of the Karioi Lodge in the bush near Raglan.

With the land cost of $10,000 paid off, a water pump installed and electricity connected, the new Karioi Lodge campus was ready for camping in style. For the following few decades, the Trust provided exciting outdoor education opportunities at the site for young people from Huntly College and other schools.

Karioi Lodge, painted by Marlene Keeley in 1984.

By 2001 however, the camp’s overnight usage was declining, so the Trust decided to lease some of the property to a local surfing school.

Then in 2018, with school demand for the camp having dropped away and the operation running at a loss, the Trust sold the entire property.

Its goal in doing so was to use the proceeds to support the outdoor recreation facility proposed for the new ‘Lake Kimihia’ created by the de-commissioning of the Huntly East coalmine.

The new Lake Kimihia near Huntly.

Murray and Jennifer Allen had just bought the site, which neighbours their family farm, with the goal of transforming its re-filling lake to create Huntly’s own version of both Lake Karapiro and Lake Rotorua, though without the afternoon winds that impact waka ama, rowing and other activities on those bodies of water.

In 2020, with a view to growing their investment income so they could continue to support the Kimihia project forever, the Huntly Karioi Trust transferred a large portion of their funds to the care of Momentum Waikato, creating the Karioi Projects Fund.

Are you, or your business or organisation, keen to enable outdoor recreation opportunities for the youth of North Waikato? Or in providing the people of Raahui Pookeka-Huntly with a new public park on their doorstep at Kimihia? Or in seeing this former mine turned into a bird-friendly nature reserve? Or simply in generally helping develop Huntly as a great place to live and visit?

If you are, please donate to the Karioi Projects Fund.