Holdups for Around Mountains cycle trail

Funding problems have delayed construction of the Around The Mountains cycle trail until next year.

Originally planned to begin in December 2011, the $11 million trail still awaits funding agreement from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE).

Venture Southland group manager of community development and events Rex Capil said yesterday he was unsure what had caused the delay from MBIE and was ''hopeful'' the trail could begin by mid-January.

Mr Capil hoped the new target of a three-day marketed bike ride would be met by October.

Customers would bike from Walter Peak to Mavora, bus the section to Mossburn, which will not be completed in time, bike to Athol on day two and then finish at Kingston on day three.

''We want to market this as a three-day trail to begin with and get this part out of the way before starting on the last.''

Once the Mavora to Mossburn section is complete the entire trail will take four or five days to ride. After permission to build the section between Mt Nicholas Rd and the Oreti suspension bridge was declined in August due to environmental concerns, SDC decided not to appeal and instead work on an alternate route from Mavora Lakes to Mossburn.

The declined section through the Eyre Mountains, from Mavora to West Dome, comprises 28km of the 175km trail - part of Prime Minister John Key's $50 million cycleway initiative.

Since this was declined by commissioner Denis Nugent, of Wanaka, the trail's progress has awaited private landowner agreements, an archaeologist report and now the funding package from the MBIE.

Mr Capil remained upbeat yesterday and said the three-day trail ''would still be world class'' despite having the ''crown jewel'' section near the Eyre Mountains omitted.

''We need time to work on the next best route from Mavora and we don't want to rush that. We don't want it to be a short-term quick fix.''

The council was unlikely to appeal the commissioner's decision and central Government was unlikely to step in, Mr Capil said.

''If we can't have it, we can't have it. That is what the whole process is for.''

The expected completion date for the entire trail was 2015, he said.

Meanwhile, Mr Capil was unconcerned over the possible effect of the proposed Riverstone Holdings 43km monorail from a terminus in the Mararoa River valley to Te Anau Downson the commercial trail.

''I haven't studied it in detail. I have heard from some members of the public that it may have effect and [from] some it may not.''

Commercial operations for the Around the Mountains Trail also relied on the Kingston Flyer steam train resuming service by the time the construction of the trail is completed.

This would mean customers on the trail would begin by taking the Earnslaw steamship to Walter Peak and end on the steam train to Kingston.


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