Council not back stop for trails, mayor says

Tony Lepper
Tony Lepper
Track and trail trusts should not think of the Central Otago District Council as a backstop for maintenance funding, mayor Tony Lepper says.

His comments were aired at the recent Otago Conservation Board and Clutha Management Committee meetings. ''My observation is that [trail] trusts are going to struggle for maintenance funding in the future and the backstop way will be to come back to councils, community boards and this [Clutha Management] committee to maintain these assets.

''Local government has jumped into these things and it might jump out just as quickly.''

He told the committee it might be the ideal group to look at the district's tracks in their entirety and whether there needed to be a management plan.

Committee member and Roxburgh Gorge Trail (between Alexandra and Roxburgh) trust chairman Stephen Jeffery said his trust and the Clutha Gold Trail (between Roxburgh and Lawrence) trust held a joint meeting last week to discuss the ''commercialisation'' of the trails - how they could generate income from the trails to cover repairs and maintenance.

Addressing the conservation board meeting from the public forum, Mr Lepper told board members the council might not be open to funding any new tracks and trails.

''The opportunity for us to fund new projects ... will be very hard.''

There were two reasons for his comments - he did not want Central Otago rates to rise by more than 5% and there were items such as water and wastewater upgrades that needed funding.

Also, the local government commission had told the council to focus funds on core infrastructure, he said.

At the Clutha Management Committee meeting, he praised the trails and trail proponents, saying once completed, the trails would be ''fantastic''.

Despite the maintenance commitment to an established track between Alexandra and Clyde, he said it was a great investment. The track, along the Clutha River, was built by the Otago Regional Council and then handed over to the district council.

''There been some expenditure, but it's so well used as a recreational tool by the community, what better place to put your money? If I had to sacrifice something, I'd almost rather give up Molyneux Park before giving up funding that trail,'' Mr Lepper said.

Committee member Jeff Hill had concerns about council committing ratepayer funds to ongoing trail expenses.

''We already have a roading network that we struggle to maintain ... this is another network.''

Mr Lepper said the Central Lakes Trust had contributed to the construction cost of some of the trails and so could be a possible funding avenue for maintenance.