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He talks to Pam Jones about cycling, local government and his home patch in the Teviot Valley.
Q Several new trails in the Central Otago and Wanaka district are on the drawing board. What will the trails bring to the area?
Low-impact tourism, delivering sustainable economic growth, coupled with increased employment opportunities. There is little doubt cycling and walking on the new trails will offer health benefits. The new trails traverse some remote countryside, giving locals and tourists access to some outstanding landscape steeped in European and Maori history. Cyclists/walkers will bring vibrancy to the rural areas they pass through, while offering opportunities for new business developments. Tourists will look for off-trail experiences.
Q How easy is it doing the groundwork for new trails and getting consents and buy-in from stakeholders? What stage is planning at for the proposed new trails?
The groundwork is very time-consuming. Former prime minister John Key announced funding in May 2016, which was matched by the Central Lakes Trust and Otago Community Trust. A business case assessment was required by the Government and a tripartite funding agreement developed. It was not until August 2018 the Government funding was approved. Easements are required from landowners to develop a trail alignment - that's a lot of goodwill from many landowners. Then the fun starts: an archaeological assessment is required, followed by a landscape assessment report. A geotechnical assessment is also required in some areas. A final trail alignment is necessary, bridge designs - and finally securing consent to construct the trail. The new network trails are all at different stages: north of Pisa to Clyde has been tendered, and construction should start shortly. The Kawarau Gorge trail is now being worked on, easements, alignments, archaeological assessments, etc. Wanaka to Pisa - talks have commenced with landowners. The trust has recently recruited two new trustees, and one trustee has been employed to ensure targets are met.
Cycle trails in the Teviot Valley have exceeded expectations in visitor numbers and user experiences. Surveys carried out on trail cyclists/walkers rate the trail very highly. Central Otago Clutha Trails Co. Ltd, which maintains the local trails, continues to deliver a first class trail experience. Previously inaccessible areas have been opened up to trail users, with the support of local farmers and property owners who offered easements. Local businesses have taken up the challenge to meet the growing demand for accommodation, eateries and cafes along the trail. Lake Roxburgh, Roxburgh and Millers Flat offer a range of services to cater for visiting cyclists.
Q What other things are happening in your home patch of Roxburgh at present - how do you see the future for the Teviot Valley?
The future looks very positive in the Teviot Valley. A fact that is sometimes overlooked is the valley's high GDP. Large productive areas of farmland, coupled with more intensive pip and stonefruit, drive our local economy. Other crops contribute - blueberries, carrots, onions, pumpkins amd saffron, to name a few - and who could forget a couple of local icons: honey and pies. Recently the final tower was installed to complete wireless internet coverage across the valley. Roxburgh appears busier year on year and is certainly recognised as the place to stop, take a break, shop and enjoy the local cafes.
Q Where does your work as Central Otago district councillor fit into it all? How would you describe your councillor role and the role of council in general?
My life as a councillor can be demanding at times. Within council I chair the Community Services Committee, which covers a diverse range of activities, and I'm chairman of the Central Otago Labour Market Governance group. I sit on the council's Audit and Risk Committee and last year I qualified to become a hearing commissionaire and was appointed to the council's hearings panel. At a local level, I sit on the Roxburgh Community Board and I chair the Teviot Valley Community Development scheme. Naturally I'm mindful of what's happening in the Teviot Valley and relaying any concerns at a council level. I believe in the role that council plays in delivering key services, otherwise I would not have stood for council.
In 2017 I sold Fairview Orchard, along with two other orchard blocks, my share in a packing facility and an export company. Do I miss it - yes. I owned Fairview for 31 years; unfortunately I ended a family lineage going back five generations to my great great grandfather. My tie to the Teviot Valley is strong and will probably always be my home base.
Q Do you have any spare time now? What do you do with it? Any cycling?
I don't have a lot of spare time, for the most part I'm attending meetings or reading agendas for what's coming next. I was lucky in my orcharding life to have very capable staff managing the day-to-day operation in my absence. My community commitments have grown post the sale of Fairview. In my spare time I enjoy cycling, which for me is twofold - some exercise, and inspecting sections of trail. I like to travel, which I can now do over the Christmas period at a time that was never available to me as an orchardist.