Wheels come off national cycleway plans

Prime Minister John Key
Prime Minister John Key
The Government had originally hoped a race the length of the country, named after Sir Edmund Hillary, could have been held on a new cycleway.

One News reported tonight details it obtained about the $50 million cycleway.

The idea, which came out of February's jobs summit, was originally intended as a cycleway spanning the length of the country. The Government has since said it would instead be made up of a series of "Great Rides" similar to the Otago Rail Trail, with a long-term aim of creating a network throughout the country.

Initial plans were even more ambitious, with One News reporting a race like the Tour de France had been planned and was to be named the Sir Edmund Hillary Explorator.

Prime Minister John Key said that may happen later.

"There's still potentially over time a possibility," he said.

"We are just building the cycleway a bit like a patch work quilt."

Costs for the single route have proved prohibitive at $33,000 a kilometre for a basic gravel path, $500,000 per km to widen a state highway, and $1m per km for clip-on bridges.

Mr Key promoted the cycleway saying it would create jobs and draw tourists.

International cycle tourists spent around $199 million during their stays in New Zealand last year.

Labour MP Chris Hipkins was critical of the repeated downgrading of plans.

"The ambition was big when it was announced, it's been scaled back completely, it's now got to the point where it's a bit of a joke really."

Mr Key was willing to be patient: "Rome wasn't built in a day and neither is the New Zealand cycleway going to be."

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