The freedom to roam the trail
On the ridges above us the gold of the tussocks starkly contrasted with dark purple shadows of the gullies and hollows in the low autumn sun.
Below us a copse of bright golden poplars encircled the ruins of the Deep Creek Hotel.
Ahead of us was the mouth-watering prospect of a trail which wound around the ridges as it ascended to the saddle separating the valleys of Deep and Coronet Creeks.
How privileged we were to experience the new Coronet Loop Trail on a perfect autumn day.
Our right to roam this piece of paradise has been the culmination of five years of work and collaboration between the Queenstown Trails Trust, Soho Property Ltd, QE2 National Trust and Mahu Whenua Open Spaces Covenant.
It has opened up a unique piece of backcountry previously inaccessible to the public, and it will inevitably come to be regarded as one of the most outstanding day mountain bike rides on the planet.
Here in Central Otago we are indebted to people with the vision and tenacity to ensure we all have access to our special outdoor environment.
In 1993 The Department of Conservation and The Otago Central Rail Trust recognised the closing of the railway provided an opportunity for creating a 152km-long trail multiday experience.
Now 10,000 cyclists, walkers and horse riders make the journey under the wide skies of the Maniototo each year, and many more choose a special part of the trail for a day adventure.
The hard work continues in Central Otago with an ambitious plan for the expansion of our trail network.
In some European countries ‘‘freedom to roam’’ is well established and is codified in law, while in other countries you are confronted with ‘‘no trespassing’’ signs or demands for payment for access to rivers, lakes, beaches and mountains.
In our country, Public Access New Zealand and local groups such as The Central Otago Recreational Users Forum champion the right for the public to have access to public land.
As we are increasingly able to access these special places the onus is on us all to tread lightly, respect the privilege when crossing private land, and to lend our support to those who plan, develop and maintain our trails.
With just under 90,000 users within the first year of operation of the Lake Dunstan Trail, it is obvious there is a huge appetite for New Zealanders to actively enjoy our special places.
Eighty-seven percent of New Zealanders now live in urban centres.
When they come to visit us they gain a better understanding of, and hopefully a love for, rural New Zealand, while being physically challenged and mentally refreshed.
It is great to have them here.