Cycle trails help local economy

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Communities along the Clutha Gold and Roxburgh Gorge cycle trails are reaping more benefits from the increased profile and business the trails have brought, business and community leaders say.

A strong rural sector was also evident in the Lawrence and Teviot Valley areas, and business confidence was expected to keep increasing, businesspeople said.

Lawrence businesswoman Jude Gamble, who with her partner Mark Robertson owns four businesses in the Tuapeka district, said the visitors the Clutha Gold Cycle Trail was bringing had transformed the town.

The visitors contributed directly to the district’s economy on benefits from subsequent visits or word-of-mouth promotion, Miss Gamble said.

She predicted the Tuapeka district would continue to “take off”, and said the recent official opening of Lawrence’s new $2.5million pool was an example of the strength of the community.

“They’re real go-ahead people here.”

Roxburgh orchardist and local body councillor Stephen Jeffery said cycle trails in the district had made significant contributions to the area’s economy, but other factors had contributed as well. Property prices were increasing in line with national trends, the Teviot Valley’s horticulture and agriculture sectors were feeling positive and the district had a stable workforce of returning seasonal workers, which allowed orchardists to plan for and carry out expansions.

There was also tremendous excitement about the Teviot Valley Community Development Scheme, through which the district gained a grant of $240,000 over three years from the Department of Internal Affairs community development scheme.

Jennie Clarke was appointed this year as the district’s first Teviot Valley community development officer, and one of the first projects planned is providing support for seasonal workers to further integrate them into the community.

Mr Jeffery, who is the chairman of the Roxburgh Gorge Cycle Trail Trust, as well as the chairman of Central Otago Clutha Trails Ltd, the organisation formed to oversee the operation of both the Roxburgh and Clutha trails, said recent figures showed growing use of both trails.

A recent Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment report showed 14,417 people rode the Roxburgh trail in 2015, and 7871 people rode the Clutha trail the same year.

The report estimated that for every dollar spent on the trails, about $3.55 of annual benefits was generated. This translated to more than $700,000 for the Roxburgh trail, and almost $560,000 for the Clutha trail.

Mr Jeffery said strengthening the communities between Lake Roxburgh and Lawrence had “always been the driver” behind the Roxburgh and Clutha cycle trails, and it was heartening to see the impact they had.

Their success had a flow-on impact, as “business feeds from business”. Businesses such as cafes and accommodation that were busier because of the cycle trails in turn attracted other visitors who might not be cycling the trails, and the Roxburgh town centre, for example, was very busy with passing business, he said.

Another important recent example of business confidence was the plan to reopen Faigan’s Store, in Millers Flat.

The store closed earlier this year when Foodstuffs pulled out its Four Square franchise, but a community outcry prompted investigation of options for reopening the store.

Auckland couple Juanita Garden and Mike Tan have bought the store and intend to refurbish it as a cafe and licensed restaurant, while also continuing to sell groceries.

Ms Garden said Faigan’s would cater for both locals and the increasing number of cyclists riding the Clutha cycle trail and she was confident the business would be a success, given the ideal location of Millers Flat on both the trail and at a halfway point between Dunedin and Wanaka/Queenstown.

– Additional reporting Yvonne ‘Hara