Dingleburn Station farmers Nick Mead and Tim Lambeth say they have regrets about granting public biking and walking access after two “brainless idiots” on mountain bikes caused a horrific stock accident on the Dingleburn Bluff last week, killing three cows in calf. Marjorie Cook reports.
Nick Mead and Tim Lambeth are still reeling and distressed, after mountain bikers be visitors to Wanaka nine cattle over the edge of a perilously narrow road during a muster of 60 cows in calf.
The Dingle Burn Bluff is on a 9km section of very rough road between the Dingleburn Station and a Department of Conservation (Doc) car park.
The farmers said the two mountain bikers had ignored stock signs at the car park end of the road, which warned “ROAD CLOSED! STOCK COMING OUT”.
Nine cows plunged over the side of the bluff, three died, and the rest swam to safety, some helped by boats.
Two cattle had to swim for several kilometres.
“It’s taken four days to get it all sorted. It’s very distressing,” Ms Mead said.
The incident had also spooked the mountain bikers, she said.
“They saw the mob and got off their bikes and climbed up the bluff to get out of the way.”
Ms Mead said when stock was being moved out of Dingleburn and around the bluff, the owners would first put out a road closure sign at the Doc car park.
She said when the mountain bikers were confronted, they said they had believed the road was closed only for vehicles, not bicycles.
Ms Mead said Dingleburn Station had lost faith in the public and would resort to always having a person manage the road every time they move their stock out past the bluff.
There’s not always a spare person around to sit at the car park for hours waiting on a mob, she said.
“That’s the price we have to pay for brainless idiots,” she said.
Dingleburn Station went through tenure review 13 years ago.
Part of the deal with Doc was to allow public access through the farmland for recreational users (walking and biking).
“But the grief that we get, with lack of respect in regard to the access, we wish we had never done it.
“We’ve been so tolerant, but people using rural areas like this need to get themselves properly educated in rural etiquette,” Ms Mead said.
Ms Mead also said there had been increased incidents of people disregarding no vehicle access signs and people tried to drive the dangerous section of Dingle Burn Station Rd weekly.
Upper Clutha Tracks Trust chairman John Hare, of Wanaka, said it was understandable the Mead family was distressed.
“The Meads go out there and greet [Contact Epic Round Lake Hawea] competitors and give them scones and stuff. They don’t deserve something like this to happen,” Mr Hare said.
The trust’s attitude was that recreationalists must get consent from property owners, treat access as a privilege and accept that farmers will have temporary operational situations requiring them to take health and safety actions.
“I am terribly sorry this has happened. There’s not accounting for what some idiots will do. We can only assume they were visitors,” he said.
Mountain Bike New Zealand president Chris Arbuckle, of Wanaka, said the incident showed the potential for lack of awareness that some people had riding a bike.
All mountain bikers should be familiar with the national body’s code for respect for others, the rules and tracks.
“The situation might have been frightening for them [the mountain bikers] as well. From my perspective, all mountain bikers need to be aware of where they are going and the environment they are biking in.”
Local knowledge and self responsibility were important factors when choosing to ride anywhere in New Zealand, Mr Arbuckle said.
“This is a unique situation, because of where they were and how it happened. But I would say everywhere is unique.”
Mountain biking was a growing sport and some people on e-bikes were now travelling further and faster than ever, and could come up on situations like that at Dingleburn very fast, he said.