Doc staff accused of ignoring Covid-19 risk

Wanaka Department of Conservation senior staff have been accused of being "non-communicative", "not listening to the locals" and ignoring the potential Covid-19 risk to walkers, runners and cyclists using the Clutha River Outlet Track.

Albert Town Community Association chairman Jim Cowie said long before the Covid-19 crisis he had asked the department to consider banning cycling on the section between the lake outlet and the Albert Town car park end, or curtailing it during high-use holiday periods, for safety reasons.

"Put simply, walking and cycling on a narrow two-way track with frequent blind bends and steep sides to the river is unsafe, and often causes friction between the two user groups, and even accidents."

Mr Cowie said since the Covid-19 lockdown the number of people using that section of track had increased significantly.

During a one-hour survey he conducted recently he counted 19 cyclists heading one way, 17 cyclists going the other, 10 walkers and three runners.

"I am a mountain biker from way back so I am not anti-mountain biking but it has got to a crazy point, and this Covid lockdown has really highlighted it for me."

Nicky and Jonathan Butler, of Albert Town, walking the Outlet Track towards Albert Town yesterday...
Nicky and Jonathan Butler, of Albert Town, walking the Outlet Track towards Albert Town yesterday at a time when there were fewer cyclists and walkers. PHOTO: KERRIE WATERWORTH

Mr Cowie said he wrote to Doc Central Otago operations manager Mike Tubbs asking him to close the track to cyclists during the lockdown because of the impossibility of maintaining social distancing, especially when cyclists passed walkers or other cyclists.


When contacted by the ODT Mr Tubbs said at this stage there were no changes to the rules governing who could use the track but it remained important everyone followed the Government’s social distancing guidelines.

"Being able to go out for a walk or bike ride is important to people at this time, so we are confident people will do what it takes to be safe where co-operation is required," he said.

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