Cycling ‘Mecca’ moves up a gear

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Two years after plans were unveiled for a proposed $26.3million cycle tourism “Mecca” in Otago, the project has moved up a gear.

“It’s a real milestone for us to get to this point, after a lot of work behind the scenes,” Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust chairman Stephen Jeffery said this week.

He was commenting on the trust filing its resource consent application for earthworks, structures and bridges and the operation and maintenance of the Lake Dunstan walking and cycling trail.

The proposed trail will be on the true right bank of the lake in the Cromwell Gorge between Bannockburn inlet and the Clyde Dam.

It is the first of three new trails which will connect to existing ones to form a trail network spanning 536km.

When Sir John Key announced the project in May 2016, he said it would create a “Mecca” of cycle tourism.

The Government would provide $13million towards the network, which would link four Otago rides – the Queenstown Trail, the Otago Central Rail Trail, the Roxburgh Gorge Trail and the Clutha Gold Trail.

The Central Lakes Trust said it would provide $11.5million towards the project and the Otago Community Trust will contribute $2million.

Submissions to the resource consent application for the Lake Dunstan Trail closed at the end of last week.

As of Monday, 173 submissions had been received, Central Otago District Council planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort said.

That figure had yet to be broken down into submissions in favour, against and neutral.

A hearing date had not yet been finalised, she said.

In its application, the trust said the development of the trail was “widely supported by the wider community” and would boost the economy of the district.

It would also improve public access around the shores of Lake Dunstan.

Parts of the trail would be through areas designated as an Outstanding Natural Landscape and Significant Natural Features.

The route avoided all known landslip areas, the application said.

Timber retaining walls up to 1m high are planned in part of the trail and an 85m suspension bridge is also part of the plans.

The application said the trail would have “less than minor effects” on the rural character of the area, the landscape, existing flora and fauna and archaeological and heritage values.

Mr Jeffery said the trust was still working through the easement process to gain access over some of the route.

“Cycle trails continue to get more and more popular and we’ve seen that in Central with the Roxburgh and Clutha Gold trails.

I’ve been getting lots of positive feedback about people wanting the network completed.

“It’ll bring more people to Central Otago ultimately when it’s completed and give people the option to spend multiple days here, doing all the different trails”.

As part of the network, new cycle trails are also proposed between Wanaka and Cromwell and from Cromwell through the Kawarau Gorge, to connect with the Queenstown Trail.