Unanimous support for cycle trail idea

Otago regional councillors are willing to explore the ways the council can help to develop an integrated regional cycle trail network, saying it is important both for local economies and community wellbeing.

A Stantec report was presented to councillors during a strategy and planning committee meeting on Tuesday, which investigated whether the cycleway network could be made in Otago and how the council could assist.

An integrated cycle network would expand Otago’s off-road cycle trails, filling in the gaps and connecting six "Great Rides" that were in or partially in the region.

This included connecting Dunedin and Oamaru.

The regional council could get involved by providing funding for land purchases; leading and co-ordinating it as a regional project; providing specialist subsidised public transport services to fill gaps between the trails; and allowing use of its land and assets, the report said.

During the meeting, Cr Michael Laws suggested councillors further explore those options at a future workshop, saying the integrated trail could benefit all of Otago.

Trails were a major economic "boom" for wherever they were, and whoever was involved or near them.

"I am really keen on us embracing this," he said.

Other councillors agreed and pointed out it would also help connect people to public spaces they might have otherwise not visited or been able to get to.

Cr Bryan Scott said as the council was encouraging biodiversity and plantings, and trying to take pride in the region’s waterways, the public should be able to access those public spaces, land and waterways.

Cr Kate Wilson agreed.

"Sometimes you don’t see what you have in your own backyard," she said.

Cr Alexa Forbes said trails were important as a transport mechanism and for connecting people with nature and other communities.

Cr Andrew Noone said the trails were not only important for economic growth in the region, but for the health and wellbeing of residents.

A motion to hold a workshop on the options in the new year was put by Cr Hilary Calvert and seconded by Cr Forbes. Councillors agreed unanimously.


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