120km adventure cycle project

An ambitious multimillion-dollar cycle trail through the Hawea Conservation Park is the...
An ambitious multimillion-dollar cycle trail through the Hawea Conservation Park is the brainchild of six Upper Clutha locals, including (from left) Scott Rainsford, James Helmore, Paul Gardner, Tim Dennis and Eddie Spearing. Absent is Chris Arbuckle. PHOTO: SEAN NUGENT
The wheels are slowly starting to turn for an ambitious mountain-bike trail project in the Hawea Conservation Park.

The idea of a multimillion-dollar 120km adventure cycle route through the park, to be named the Maungatika Circuit, is the brainchild of the six avid Wanaka cyclists who form the Maungatika Trust.

All bring a different form of expertise to the table, from track design to tourism to knowledge of the environment, and are focused on following their collective dream.

Trust member Scott Rainsford said it was "one of the biggest trail projects since the Milford Track" and he believed there was no doubt it would be popular.

Back-country cycle trails like the one planned were common in the northern hemisphere, but were nowhere to be seen in this half of the world, he said.

As a bike shop owner, he often had visitors asking where the trails were, but there were none to be found.

"There isn't anything like this around here. People come here expecting it but it just isn't here."

Fellow trust member Chris Arbuckle said that the trail, which would traverse an alpine environment higher than Roys Peak, "won't be for the faint-hearted".

"It's marketed at fit, adventurous mountain bikers of which we know there is a growing number ... It'll be a challenging biking trail."

However, the project was still very much an "initial concept that needs to be tested with a feasibility study", trust member James Helmore, of Lake Wanaka Tourism, said.

That study was expected to cost around $100,000 and had no timeline at this point.

"We're talking to a range of people to seek funding ... but we don't know how long it'll take to raise those funds," Mr Helmore said.

The track itself will not be cheap.

The trust believes it could cost upwards of $12million, and for that reason, construction might not start until at least 2020, and the finished product is unlikely to be ready before 2023.

"It's super exciting but super daunting," Mr Rainsford said.

However, the trust says it will be money well spent.

"If we can create this track to the vision that we have it's going to be considered one of the best if not the best back-country rides in New Zealand and will be heavily sought after by international guiders," Mr Helmore said.

The track could join the Heaphy Track and Old Ghost Rd "at the top of the pyramid as a biking experience", Mr Arbuckle said.

"It's all down to initiative, dedication and following your dream.

"There's nothing really stopping it from happening - we just need to see if it's feasible."


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