Board backs looking into cycle trail

Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board chairman Andrew Simms discusses priorities at a meeting this week....
Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board chairman Andrew Simms discusses priorities at a meeting this week. Issues highlighted in a community plan included Gordon Rd traffic, protection from flooding and development of cycle trails. PHOTO: LINDA ROBERTSON
A cycle trail should be presented to the public as a viable alternative to trains running in the Taieri Gorge, the Mosgiel-Taieri Community Board says.

Extending the Otago Central Rail Trail past Middlemarch into the Taieri was included as the sixth priority in the board’s community plan.

The board at least wants potential for a cycle trail to be given fair consideration while the Dunedin City Council continues to ponder the future of Dunedin Railways, which runs passenger services and is responsible for track upkeep in the gorge.

The gorge trip is a tourism drawcard but the company has essentially produced losses for the council, which is facing a multimillion-dollar bill for deferred track maintenance.

The board confirmed on Wednesday it had a view Taieri and Dunedin "might be better served" by an extension of the well-used rail trail for cycling and walking.

It toned down a little of the language in the draft plan about the weakness of the rail operation, but board members agreed they wanted a cycle trail to emerge as a genuine option.

As board deputy chairman Dean McAlwee said: "If it’s not the train, we’d love a cycle trail.

Board chairman Andrew Simms saw two clear paths ahead.

He expected the council would end up favouring as its preferred option sinking at least $20 million of ratepayers’ money into a track upgrade between Wingatui and Middlemarch over about a decade.

Conversion to a cycle trail should be presented as the leading alternative option, he said.

The city council is set to consider such matters when it develops its draft 2025-34 long-term plan.

In the meantime, a consultant is to review the Taieri Gorge for rail services, cycling and walking.

The council has historically favoured preserving opportunities for restoration of a regular train service from Dunedin to Middlemarch.

The gorge is viewed by the council as a vital part of Dunedin’s tourism and heritage.

The company was described in a 2023-24 statement of intent as being in a "semi-hibernated state, operating a limited schedule of passenger services, and maintaining key assets pending evaluation and consideration of options for the company and its assets".

Several other topical subjects were included in the board’s community plan.

The first priority was pushing for a heavy-traffic bypass for Mosgiel, an issue that continued to generate media coverage this month.

The town’s main street, Gordon Rd, had 540 heavy-transport movements a day and the Taieri area continued to have growth in housing and industry.

Flood protection for the Taieri was identified as the second priority.

Mr Simms said the Otago Regional Council seemed to need convincing about the importance of maintaining flood defences to robust levels.

The plan identified reduced capacity of the Silver Stream as a prime concern, as well as highlighting concerns about the integrity of floodbanks protecting Outram and the vulnerability of Dunedin Airport if there was a massive deluge.

The board identified cycleways as the third priority and in particular referenced the first stage of the proposed tunnels trail between Mosgiel and Dunedin, the Mosgiel to Outram section of a proposed Taieri trail, extending the Otago Central Rail Trail and development of an Outram loop track.

Establishment of a destination playground at Memorial Park in Mosgiel was listed as the fourth priority in the plan and redevelopment at Outram Glen was the fifth priority.