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Cyclists, take the train, appreciate the sights
For a predominantly young and fit section of our community, it seems the cyclists in this city want their cake and to eat it as well in their proposed take-over of the Taieri Gorge.
At great cost to ratepayers, cyclists already have their own lane north and south through the city; and also at eye-watering cost, a newly completed lane around the harbour. Now they are lobbying to have the rail line taken up so they can peddle the Taieri Gorge. But only as far as Middlemarch. The remainder of the route to Clyde has been theirs for the pleasure of riding for the last 20 or so years.
There are others, not so fit and able to cycle, who want to see this world-renowned gorge too. Why else would the Taieri Gorge excursion be the first among the attractions offered to cruise ship passengers to be booked out?
For independent visitors and locals, it is also a must see to appreciate what went into its construction back in the 19th century.
At 197m long and 47m above the stream bed, the Wingatui Viaduct is still the largest wrought iron structure in New Zealand. And that’s not the only amazing site on the route.
Cyclists: Pop your bikes in the guard’s van and enjoy it, too.
Upgrade the track
I too, like several letter writers to the ODT, am horrified that Andrew Simms is hell-bent on ripping up our precious railway for yet another cycle trail. He mentions that cyclists are missing out on viewing historical structures in the Taieri Gorge. Well don’t be miserly about it, they can purchase a rail ticket and view them from the train.
There are many people who are unable to ride a bicycle for several hours that would also like to view these historic structures. That is why they use the train. That is one reason why the Otago Excursion Train Trust was set up by the late George Emerson, the late Arthur Rockliff and others. Their purpose to preserve the historic train journey for locals and tourists. The cost of ripping up the tracks and converting the road bed into a cycle trail would be tens of millions of dollars, all paid for by us.
I, and assume many others, would rather that money be spent in upgrading the track to Middlemarch so that maximum speeds can be increased to allow a more realistic time for the trip to be scheduled. The cyclists would then be able to train from Dunedin to Middlemarch, cycle the rail trail to Clyde and beyond or vice -ersa.
Re Andrew Simms open letter (ODT 15.11.23), I hope he took into account two glaring facts that concern me over the seemingly senseless attempt to sabotage this iconic attraction.
1. The original budget for the extension of the cycle/walking track from St Leonards to Pt Chalmers was $25 million. The final cost was in the vicinity of $54 million (a fact that no-one seems to be taking the relevant people to task over). Does Mr Simms really think that any figure he is given will in any way relate to reality at the end?
2. Does Mr Simms really think that it makes any sense to spend a fortune on converting the ‘‘track’’ to a cycleway when the income from that will be (going by other expensive cycleway constructions) absolutely zero.
Side by side
Re Andrew Simms’ open letter, rather than blandish us with swathes of platitudes about why our city’s asset should be plundered to create a cycle trail, it would serve the citizens of Dunedin better to explore in depth how these two options could exist side by side. You don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater ...
Why not draw a ticket in the lottery of life
After 40 years of dismal neo liberal economics it seems our lives now revolve around pure luck, and at the moment our Covid-era safety net is in tatters.
We have a friend in Dunedin with a PhD who has no place to live after her landlord died, while she is waiting forever for hip replacements. Society is suppose to mitigate the effects of misfortune on its members. In our case members, who fund society in the form of punitive taxes, which begs the question can we do better ? Apparently yes we could. In Canada there was an experiment where one city did a very innovative thing: cut all the red tape, labelling, incarceration and judgements and just give every homeless person $4K and bingo, homelessness all but disappeared and the city benefited from the stimulus.
But could it work at scale? There was an idea floated that if the money was gifted to our needy as tickets by our social services as a near no fail Lottery maybe it would be more politically palatable and it would not be a handout but a top-up on luck?
At the moment our new batch of politicians are trying to figure out how to cram more people into expensive prisons we cannot afford to build and staff, so there is little chance of mending our government safety net of insurance and healthcare if we try and torment our population to a new level of despair.
Do not arise Sir Wayne
Now that Ian Foster is no longer likely to receive a knighthood for his services to rugby, I sincerely hope that King Charles doesn’t transfer this honour to Wayne Barnes.
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