Paper trails stymie cycle trail progress

Almost four years after the Government announced funding for a mammoth cycle trail network in Central Otago, the government departments involved have still not done the paper work.

In May 2016, then prime minister John Key pledged $13.2 million to the $26.3 million project at a function attended by, among others, various Government officials.

Janeen Wood. Photo: Mark Price
Janeen Wood. Photo: Mark Price
However, the organisation tasked with creating the trails - the Central Otago Queenstown Trails Network Trust - is still battling to get access to Department of Conservation and Crown Land.

Trust spokeswoman Janeen Wood told the Otago Daily Times it was ready last year to apply for resource consent for the Kawarau River leg of the network.

It had approval from privately owned Kawarau Station to cross its land and letters of support from Doc, which controls some of the land along the route.

However, it still did not have the detailed documentation required from Doc.

"We need their affected party approval for the resource consent process."

Ms Wood said this had held up progress on the trail network.

"They couldn’t give us a clear decision on where everything stood and what was going to happen with it."

Agreement was also needed from Land Information New Zealand.

"We get bounced from Doc to Linz, Linz to Doc, Doc to Linz ..."

Earlier this month, Doc announced it had "initiated" a partial review of the Otago Conservation Management Strategy (CMS) "to consider whether new cycle and mountain bike trails could be developed on public conservation land in Otago".

Doc Whakatipu-wai-Maori operations manager Geoff Owen said a "partial review" meant that the department could "properly assess and consider the proposed trails".

"It doesn’t mean all trails will go ahead, it’s simply enabling the conversations to take place," he said.

Ms Wood described the length of time it was taking as "challenging".

Individual Doc staff were "trying to make it work for us", she said, but were "embarrassed" by the delays too.

"We were asking them what do we need to do to make this happen, and it’s taken this long to tell us their technical bits aren’t in place to make it happen."

The 35km, $4 million Kawarau River trail is the most technically challenging of the network.

The trust has previously said it was "hugely significant" to the network because it would unlock Queenstown’s huge visitor market.

The network is being funded by the Government ($13.2 million), the Central Lakes Trust ($11.15 million) and the Otago Community Trust ($2 million).


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