Cycle trail work to begin by Christmas

Mountain bikers take in the view from what will be part of the  Around the Mountains Cycle Trail....
Mountain bikers take in the view from what will be part of the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail. Photo supplied.
The Around the Mountains Cycle Trail will finally be under construction by Christmas, a year after the original start date.

The $11 million trail has gone through hoops to get to the stage where the Southland District Council is now able to call for tenders this month for work to begin before Christmas.

Southland district councillor John Douglas, of the Five Rivers ward, said the council had received submissions from several construction tenderers for the project.

This positive news comes after 28km of the 140km trail was declined by independent hearing commissioner Denis Nugent, of Wanaka, in August.

Mr Nugent declined part of the trail that would have run alongside the Oreti River after submissions came from the fishing fraternity, which had concerns over the environmental effect on the river.

The section between the Mt Nicholas Rd bridge to, and including, the proposed Oreti suspension bridge was not granted consent because Mr Nugent believed significant adverse effects on the environment could occur in the section through the Eyre Mountains.

Rather than appealing Mr Nugent's decision, the council decided to spend the $4 million granted by central government to begin construction from Kingston to Mossburn to Lumsden.

The declined consent means an 8km detour to the track will run down the Mararoa River and link back with the lower Oreti River.

Mr Douglas said the commissioner's decision was influenced by concern that rockfall and traffic would interrupt aquatic life.

"Dubious stuff like that planted doubts in the mind of the commissioner."

Mr Douglas was disappointed the particular 28km stretch of the trail had been ruled out, as it "produced that wow factor" and was the most scenic part.

"It should not be of an exclusive use for just one recreation, it should be for all to enjoy."

Fishing enthusiasts were not the only ones to make submissions against the trail.

Two farmers in the Parawa area - between Five Rivers and Athol - complained about the trail's pathway alongside the railway on their farms.

Mr Douglas said they had reached agreement in principle with the farmers and the cycleway would now move off the railway.

Building consent for the bridges and structures had been granted.

Aside from the disruptions and changes, he said the cycleway would still be a great experience.

Once it was complete, up to five small townships would benefit economically from its existence, including Kingston, Lumsden, Garston, Mossburn and Five Rivers.

He compared the finished product's effect on the region to the Otago Central Rail Trail's effect in Central Otago.

"We've been wanting those benefits to flow through here and it's just been frustrating for me it has taken so long."

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