Mayors call on Prime Minister to consider 'Coastal Pacific Trail' between Marlborough and Christchurch

A mountain biker on the Queen Charlotte Track, which could link up as part of the proposed 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

A mountain biker on the Queen Charlotte Track, which could link up as part of the proposed 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Three South Island mayors have called on Prime Minister Bill English to consider a proposed cycleway between the Marlborough Sounds and Christchurch.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett, Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray and Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley have voiced their support for the project in a letter to the Prime Minister.

Since it was proposed last month, there has been growing momentum for a combined cycleway and walking trail down the east coast, dubbed the 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Supporters of the 'Coastal Pacific Trail' have invoked the success of the Otago Central Rail Trail to bolster their case.

Supporters of the 'Coastal Pacific Trail' have invoked the success of the Otago Central Rail Trail to bolster their case.

Advocates argue the earthquake has created a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to incorporate the cycleway into repairs taking place on the damaged transport corridor.

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Comparisons have also been made with the Central Otago Rail Trail, with supporters saying a trail down the coast would help revitalise towns along the length of the route.

Three South Island mayors have written to Prime Minister Bill English voicing their support for the 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Three South Island mayors have written to Prime Minister Bill English voicing their support for the 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith, an outspoken supporter of the project, said he delivered the letter from the mayors to the Prime Minister on Wednesday.

He had also spoken with Transport Minister Simon Bridges and Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, adding there was general support for the idea in government.

"Most of the cycleways in New Zealand have an element of government funding, so there is funding available for these sorts of initiatives," he said.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the time is now.

Marlborough Mayor John Leggett says the time is now.

"While you're doing a $2 billion rebuild reinstating the transport corridor from Clarence right through to Parnassus, provisions could be made for the trail."

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Smith said the proposed route could link existing projects, including the Queen Charlotte Track, in the Marlborough Sounds, and proposed cycleways being supported by the Bike Walk Marlborough Trust.

"The ultimate vision would be to take it from Ship Cove to Cathedral Square, that would make it a 400-kilometre long trail along one of the most beautiful coastlines we have," he said.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said cyclists could bike from Blenheim to Kaikoura and up the Inland Rd to Hanmer Springs.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray said cyclists could bike from Blenheim to Kaikoura and up the Inland Rd to Hanmer Springs.

Leggett said there was a limited window of opportunity for the cycleway to be incorporated into the rebuild, and the Government needed to make a clear signal of its commitment.

This view was shared by the two other mayors, who both emphasised the need for the Government to move quickly to incorporate the cycleway into the ongoing repairs.

"We've got a window of opportunity for the trail to be constructed cost effectively with the rebuild of the road and the rail," Dalley said.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says the Coastal Pacific Trail would be a national asset.

Hurunui Mayor Winton Dalley says the Coastal Pacific Trail would be a national asset.

"It's an opportunity that needs to be taken by the country, not just the Marlborough, Kaikoura and Hurunui districts, because this trail would be a national asset."

The Hurunui mayor said a group associated with the Hurunui Trails Trust was working on a proposal for a cycleway between Amberly and Kaikoura, through the Inland Rd.

The coastal route could link up with this trail, acting as the central spine that allowed cyclists to access other cycleways in each of the three districts, he said.

Dr John Forrest wrote the opinion piece that sparked interest in the 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Dr John Forrest wrote the opinion piece that sparked interest in the 'Coastal Pacific Trail'.

Gray said if the Coastal Pacific Trail went ahead, cyclists could bike from Blenheim to Kaikoura, up the Inland Rd to Hanmer Springs and back through Molesworth Station.

The economic opportunities created by the trail would be huge for Kaikoura and the small settlements in the region, however there needed to be movement on the proposal soon.

"It's really quite important, because there's already been considerable planning done on the road, so there's an urgency around it now," he said.

Marlborough wine company owner Dr John Forrest, who put the idea forward in an opinion piece, said he thought there was a two-week window for the Government to act.

The Coastal Pacific Trail advocate had been speaking to tourism and business leaders around the country to bolster the case for the trail.

"We've got great support in Marlborough now, from Ship Cove to Cathedral Square, we've got people all along the way saying great things," he said.

"To make a stronger case I've taken the merits of the argument to the New Zealand tourism and business communities, and I'm preparing a submission with their support.

"People outside Marlborough see the Coastal Pacific Trail as a key infrastructural cog to grow the tourism industry and help make it both profitable and sustainable.

"We've got to spread the tourists out and take the pressure off the areas that are already bursting at the seams."

 - The Marlborough Express


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