'Spectacular' Old Ghost Road cycleway good for Nelson, West Coast, says Smith
The $6.5 million Old Ghost Road cycle trail between the upper Buller Gorge and Seddonville on the West Coast will be a significant visitor attraction for the Nelson and West Coast regions, the Government says.
Opened on Saturday, the 85-kilometre trail is New Zealand's longest off-road mountainbike route, running along the old dray trail used by miners.
With the former gold mining town of Lyell at one end and the spectacular Mokihinui River gorge at the other, it traverses five ghost towns, native bush, open tops and hidden valleys.
Environment minister and Nelson MP Nick Smith and National list MP Maureen Pugh represented the Government at the opening ceremony in Westport on Saturday. They also visited the trail for a tandem ride.
The event marked West Coaster Pugh's return to the caucus she briefly joined after last year's election before special votes tipped her out. Following the departure of MP Tim Groser, who is becoming New Zealand's ambassador to the United States, she will take up her seat when Parliament resumes after the summer break.
Developed by the non-profit Old Coast Road/Mokihinui-Lyell Back Country Trust, the cycle trail has four new huts and eight "summer sleepouts" along its challenging route, which is rated grade 4, only for fit and experienced mountain bikers.
It is also available to trampers, with the suggestion they allow five days to complete the walk.
In a statement, Smith said the trail would add to the top of the south's "global reputation as an adventure tourism mecca".
Pugh, the former Westland District Mayor, said West Coast communities needed to take every opportunity to grow their tourism sectors.
"We cannot change the global downturn in coal and dairy prices that is adversely impacting on our region, but we can do more projects like this new cycleway to ensure we tap into the current national boom in tourism."
She said it was estimated the trail would add 18 new jobs to the region, and $10m in economic activity over five years.
The Old Ghost Road cycleway is part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail initiated by Prime Minister Joney Key in 2009, with 61 per cent of the cost met by the Government. The rest was made up of $850,000 from the New Zealand Lottery Grants Board, $1.25m from Development West Coast, $347,000 from Solid Energy, $250,000 from Buller District Council and $102,000 in public donations.
Construction has included 13 bridges over major rivers and over an area known as Suicide Bluff.
Smith said it had been named in the world's top three cycle trails by the UK-based Essential Travel, and was seen as having the potential as being to mountainbiking what the Milford Track is to walking.
The next challenge was to market it nationally and internationally.
He said the project had involved 25,000 volunteer hours, an unprecedented contribution to any back country project.
For more go to www.oldghostroad.org.nz