Opposition to cycleway unaddresed

While Prime Minister John Key says he has been working with opponents of the $11 million Around the Mountains Cycle Trail, one main opponent, Fish and Game, has not had heard from him.

During Mr Key's visit to Queenstown last week he was asked if his Government would be stepping in to challenge opposition to one vital 28km piece of the trail alongside the Oreti River that was denied in August.

"We have been working with Fish and Game, though obviously council are leading that.

We've been working with those who are opposed, to find a resolution to that; it's proving very difficult."

However Fish and Game Southland manager Maurice Rodway said he had not spoken to Mr Key or the National Government, despite writing a letter to local MP Bill English in March last year.

"I don't know if they've ever written back ... They haven't talked to us."

The 28km section of the 140km trail between the Mt Nicholas Rd bridge to, and including, the proposed Oreti suspension bridge was not granted consent in August by independent commissioner Denis Nugent.

The Southland District Council is planning an alternative 8km detour to the track, which would run down the Mararoa River and link back with the lower Oreti River.

Fish and Game have promoted this alternative because it would be cost-efficient and not disrupt the "peaceful and natural environment" for anglers in the area, Mr Rodway said.

"We argue that a commercial cycleway with up to 10,000 users will significantly degrade the remoteness and peaceful environment.""The cycleway would certainly change that." Mr Rodway said the construction work on the trail and associated traffic would disrupt fishing, though he admitted this would have an end date.

"Realistically over time that would have been OK."

He said the biggest issue for Fish and Game was the trail and cyclists using it disrupting the "natural fishing experience" for anglers.

"If you've got a mountain bike you can go down there now, you would just have to lift it over a gate.""The argument that we are selfish, we don't think that's valid at all. We just don't want it to be a big commercial operation.

However this is exactly what the Around the Mountains part of Mr Key's $50 million national cycleway would bring to the area.

"We would obviously be very disappointed if the trail can't go ahead. But it needs to be able to be complete if we are going to have a proper ride so we need to try to find a solution for that," Mr Key said.

The National Government would be keeping a close eye on the situation he said.

"The problem is, I think, legally it would be very difficult to stand in, sure passing legislation could ride in over top of that."

Rather than appealing Mr Nugent's decision, the council decided to spend the $4 million granted by central government to begin construction from Kingston to Mossburn to Lumsden, which will begin before Christmas.


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