Bonanza: the new gold rush

Rod Peirce.
Rod Peirce.
Businesses in the Teviot Valley enjoyed a 300% increase in trade during the last month of last summer, a report compiled by the Clutha Gold Trail chairman says.

In February, an estimated 6000 people used the trail, and 15 businesses have been established to service both the Roxburgh Gorge and Clutha Gold cycle trails, the report says.

A further 18 are thought to have expanded existing operations to cope with demand.

Clutha Gold Trail Charitable Trust chairman Rod Peirce said while the information was anecdotal, it was sourced from businesses located in Alexandra, Roxburgh, Millers Flat, Beaumont, and Lawrence.

The cycle trails, which opened about a year ago, connect Alexandra and Lawrence via a track.

The two trails meet at the Roxburgh Dam.

The trail from Alexandra to the dam on the Roxburgh Gorge Trail is about 34km long, with a mandatory boat trip connecting sections of the track.

The 73km-long Clutha Gold Trail connects the dam and Lawrence, and is expected to take most riders two days.

Roxburgh Gorge Charitable Trust chairman Stephen Jeffery said ''a lot'' of accommodation in the Teviot Valley was being built or ''done up''.

A cyclist takes a break on the Roxburgh Gorge trail.
A cyclist takes a break on the Roxburgh Gorge trail.
Mr Peirce said several accommodation providers had set up in anticipation of the trail opening.

In Lawrence, Jude Gamble and partner Mark Robertson have over the past four years built three houses for short-term accommodation for users of the Clutha Gold trail.

Miss Gamble said there were ''a few'' others setting up accommodation in Lawrence.

Mr Pierce's report said nine of the 15 newly established businesses provided accommodation while others provided food, transport and bike hire.

Other new businesses noted in the report included ''The Prospector'' cafe and accommodation, and a cycle hire and transport business while existing businesses such as Faigan's Community Store in Millers Flat, have increased opening hours, from six days a week to seven.

Manager Linda Moir said the move was partly to cater for anticipated trail-related customers.

''We were seeing on average 10-12 people more per day during summer.''

On one day, the store had about 110 people walk in to buy ice creams.

Pat Abbott, owner of Arcadia Accommodation in Millers Flat, said she felt the trail had been a success story and had geared up to serve users.

''We've got bookings for this summer, its looking on par with what we had last year, which is probably as much as we want.''

Central Otago District Council planning and environment manager Louise van der Voort said no resource consent applications for trail-related businesses had been filed, although, if the business was in correctly zoned land it would not need a resource consent.

For expanding businesses, often only a building consent was required.

Tourism Central Otago marketing and product development manager Pam Broadhead said to her knowledge, no new businesses had registered with the group as trail operators.

However, the group had already been receiving bookings for the summer.

Business owners in the area were likely to set up an operator's group, similar to that established by operators on the Otago Central Rail Trail, she said.

Trail Journeys managing director Neville Grubb said the company, which provides booking services and tours for cycle trails in Central Otago, had bookings that were ''definitely'' ahead of where they were last year.

''What we are seeing this year is a bit more awareness and a bit more outside booking on the trails, and people coming specifically to the area to ride them.''

Business on the Otago Central Rail Trail had taken about three to four years to build up, but the new trails could ''pick up'' faster, he said.

Mr Jeffery said businesses in the Teviot Valley had noticed more people riding the trails over winter than expected, which had surprised him.

The two trails had received positive feedback which he hoped would ''flow through'' to businesses.

Both trails hoped to obtain a better record of users this summer.

Previous user-counting systems had not given consistent results, and a new infra-red counter would be trialled from next week.

A website for the two trails recently went online.

The site, which has information on both, went live on October 7, following about nine months of work.

It was funded by contributions from businesses in the area.

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