Great for the cycling public, but what about the landowner?

Photo by John Fridd.
Photo by John Fridd.
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 disadvantaged.

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 Lawrence.

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 Roxburgh Gorge.

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.