Fear cyclists would jeopardise fishing

Submissions for and against an around-the-mountains cycle trail have been heard in Invercargill this week, with Southland and Otago fishing fraternities the biggest obstacles for the tourism venture.

Fish and Game opposed the concept of an $11 million cycle trail when it was proposed last year by the Southland District Council, and this week reiterated that opposition.

Private landowners as well as Otago and Southland Fish and Game bodies reject the 184km trail, which would run from Walter Peak, past the Mavora Lakes to Lumsden and follow State Highway 6 to Kingston.

Fish and Game Southland officer Stuart Sutherland said in his submission users of the trail would ruin the tranquility of angling in the upper Oreti River.

He said the introduction of cyclists would "completely remove the peace and solitude aspect anglers enjoy".

The upper Oreti River, he said, was known as a premier spot for brown trout and construction of the track as well as its use by cyclists would jeopardise that.

In a survey, he found that 60% of the individuals who fished the river were from overseas and a further 15% from outside the province.

This indicated to Mr Sutherland that fishing tourism was just as much of value to the region as the cycle trail would be.

"Stopping even the small percentage of the estimated 13,000 cyclists who may be carrying fishing gear from actually fishing and degrading the experience of the anglers legitimately, is a near impossibility."

The trail's project manager, Mike Barnett, in his submission said the trail would create tourism benefits, employment, economic and business opportunities and link up with Prime Minister John Key's national cycleway network.

The council estimated that, by year five, the trail would attract over 12,000 cyclists a year who would be using the track mostly for more than one day at a time.

So, he said, using a 5% levy system, they would generate $254,000 to the council or trust for maintenance of the trail.

The council's submission stated the cycle trail would be "potentially one of the most significant local tourism initiatives in recent years".

The New Zealand Transport Agency had outlined several requirements the trail would need to follow, such as sufficient signs and "cycle holding pens" before it reached the state highway.

The proposal attracted 205 submissions in total, 109 in opposition, 65 in support, 26 supporting in principle and five neutral (including Environment Southland).

Commissioner Denis Nugent has requested further information from the council and, once submitters have responded, he will have 15 working days to release his decision.


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