The Otago Central Rail Trail has been a boon to the
region, but Gerrard Eckhoff says some landowners along a
proposed new trail from Alexandra to Lawrence may be
Photo by John Fridd.
The rail trail from Middlemarch to Clyde is now the single
biggest non-farming business in the Maniototo-Alexandra area
- by a margin.
Those of us who were sceptical that a disused railway line
could be the draw card for thousands of tourists into the
previously all but ignored landscapes now eat a regular
portion of humble pie.
Even the most strident opponent of hoards of tourists biking
and walking through a very different part of their world now
accept that the revitalisation of Middlemarch, Hyde,
Waipiata, Oturehura, Wedderburn, Omakau etc is solely due to
the rail trail.
The Government's proposal to further develop this concept
offers real hope to sustain towns like Roxburgh, Millers
Flat, Beaumont and Lawrence as these traditional service
towns to the agricultural industry find it tougher and
tougher to survive.
The Roxburgh to Beaumont cycleway will be sited on the
marginal strip, or road reserve, as will some of the Beaumont
to Lawrence section.
That is not the case with the Alexandra to Roxburgh section,
where the route would cut grazing blocks in half, leaving
them with no water for stock.
There is now a huge public expectation that the
revitalisation of the towns and small settlements along the
rail trail will soon repeat itself from Alexandra to
This is where the gradient starts getting steep.
Local landowners from Alexandra and down through the Roxburgh
Gorge now find they are the meat in the sandwich.
Much of the land required for the trails is in freehold
title, with the exception of some pastoral lease land in the
This pastoral lease land requires the permission of the
Commissioner of Crown Lands, who has recently pointed out to
landowners in the area that the legal and technical
difficulties are considerable, along with the costs
associated with any changes to the leases to accommodate an
easement. Such costs are not allowed for in government
funding of the trails.
The impact of a new cycle trail on normal farming operations
is very significant and cannot be dismissed or compared with
the Middlemarch to Clyde trail.