Danseys trail ride fundraiser cancelled due to fire risk

A rider in the 2021 Danseys Pass Trail Ride. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE
A rider in the 2021 Danseys Pass Trail Ride. PHOTO: KAYLA HODGE
Get your motor running? Not at this year’s Danseys Pass Trail Ride.

Due too extreme fire risk, the popular trail ride has been cancelled.

The Danseys Pass ride is the longest one-day trail ride in Australasia, with more than 165km of tracks through private high country farms, braided rivers, forestry, native gorge and rolling farmland in the Waitaki Valley.

The annual event has been held since 2000 as Duntroon School’s major fundraiser. Last year the event raised $40,000 for the school.

Danseys Pass Trail Ride committee chairman Grant Tremewan said it was disappointing to cancel the event, but it all came down to safety in the end and was in the best interests of all.

"It’s cancelled of course for the extreme fire risk and we just couldn’t be responsible for anybody or any farmland getting burnt."

Trail ride committee marketing and communications manager Paige Wills said the decision was not made lightly by the committee.

"We pride ourselves on being as safe as possible and that’s what it’s got to come down to, the safety and wellbeing of our riders ... and landowners — that is No 1 over and above. As much as we want to fundraise, that’s got to come first," Mrs Wills said.

Mrs Wills said there were 200 pre-registered riders for the event and they had been expecting about 1500 riders on the day, based on numbers from last year.

The organisation also expected new riders from other regions, due to the permanent cancellation of the Wanaka Trail Ride last year due to land access issues.

Fire and Emergency New Zealand (Fenz) Waitaki group manager Michael Harrison said there were extreme fire conditions in North Otago and the Waitaki district.

"It’s really good to see the committee organising the trail ride has taken into account the current conditions and cancelled it this year.

"A fire caused by a spark, or grass coming into contact with a hot engine or anything like that is really, really high ... The conditions are going to get worse before they get better, so this is a good decision on their part."

Mrs Wills said some of the landowners were understandably getting "pretty nervous" about the risks of having bikes across long dry grass.

The committee was "very grateful" to the landowners for their co-operation before the event, getting stock out of the way and allowing volunteers to mark and cut the land for tracks.

"A lot of it had been done, the bits we couldn’t do we were hoping to be able to get to, but honestly, the extreme fire risk just meant we couldn’t even mark some sections of track," she said.

Mr Tremewan said it was a team effort all round, with many organisations and sponsors involved.

"Everybody has put in work. The track teams have put in a lot of work and there’s been a lot of organising behind the scenes with St John and LandSAR."

The committee was confident the trail ride would be back next year bigger and better than ever, and had locked it in for March 22, 2025.