Challenging cycle route 'can be done'

The Nevis Bluff, near Gibbston. Photo: ODT files
The Nevis Bluff, near Gibbston. Photo: ODT files
A cycling trail from Gibbston to Bannockburn will be the most challenging section of a $26 million project to link Central Otago's cycling trails, the project's chairman says.

Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Steering Group chairman Stephen Jeffery said the trail's precise route was now being finalised, and easement negotiations with landowners had just begun.

The 35km trail is part of 122km of new trail being built in five stages to connect the Queenstown Trail, Clutha Gold Trail, Otago Central Rail Trail and Roxburgh Gorge Trail.

Stephen Jeffery.
Stephen Jeffery.
Mr Jeffery said it would be the hardest link trail in the network to build, particularly around Nevis Bluff, but it "can be done".

He wanted to see it opened within five years.

"It will take a while, and that's what people have got to realise."

Estimated to cost $4million, the trail will run from the end of the Gibbston River Trail and through the Kawarau Gorge before linking with an existing trail in Bannockburn.

A 2016 feasibility study found the section from Gibbston to Roaring Meg alone would require four new bridges - three of them crossing the Kawarau River - a cantilevered platform around the Nevis Bluff with protective fencing for rock falls, and a clip-on crossing structure on Victoria Bridge.

Mr Jeffery said that study had since been independently reviewed "so we totally understood what the potential costs would be".

When all the linking trails are completed, a 530km trail network will connect 30 communities, including Queenstown, Wanaka, Cromwell, Alexandra, Roxburgh and Lawrence.

Mr Jeffery said the Gibbston to Bannockburn trail was "hugely significant" because it would unlock Queenstown's huge visitor market.

Although those visitors tended to go for shorter rides within the Queenstown Trails network, "we're hoping that a percentage of them will just keep riding".

He was also excited about a recent proposal by the Clutha Gold Trust for a trail from Lawrence to Waihola.

"If they could achieve that, it would be fantastic - you'd be able to land in Queenstown and catch a plan out of Dunedin."

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


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