Cycle crowd packs new Brightwater bridge
Tasman's Great Taste Cycle Trail has taken a major step forward with the opening of an 80-metre suspension bridge over the Wairoa River.
About 250 cyclists patiently waited to cross the bridge in bunches of 10 before heading to Brightwater and the $270,000 bridge's official opening ceremony at the domain yesterday.
There, New Zealand Cycle trail programme manager John Dunn said Nelson and Tasman's bid for national funding had always stood out because of the high level of existing tourism infrastructure the route would take in. "That's why we voted funding for this trail."
West Coast-Tasman Green Party list MP Kevin Hague said progress on Tasman's trail matched work going on around the country on the 18 regional cycleways that would form a network of back country and quiet road routes.
There was no evidence yet of increasing tourism driven by the trails, but anecdotal evidence was that the joint National-Greens cycle trail project had seen more Kiwis take to pedal power for holidays, recreation and commuting, he said.
Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the numbers at the opening reflected the strong local support for the cycle trail, and highlighted the fact that the Tasman District Council's decision to return the $4.2 million project to the current long-term plan was the correct move.
To applause from the crowd, he said public momentum for the trail was continuing, with a Kohatu landowner recently gifting land for the part of the route between the Spooner Range and Tapawera.
However, while cyclists were pleased that the bridge was open, the event saw a game of political handball.
The late arrival of Nelson MP Nick Smith's invitation to the event from the Nelson Cycle Trails Trust saw the National MP double-booked and unable to attend.
The no-show of a leading political backer saw Mr Kempthorne ask West Coast-Tasman's Labour MP Damien O'Connor not to speak at yesterday's opening.
This morning Mr O'Connor said he understood Dr Smith had "thrown his toys out of the cot" at the possibility Mr O'Connor would speak at the opening of the government-funded bridge.
Mr O'Connor had planned to attend, but said he decided not to after Mr Kempthorne's call.
"I wasn't snubbing the opening just because Nick Smith couldn't make it. I think the trail is a great idea, but its greatest benefit is in the health of New Zealanders – tourism will take a long time to develop."
Nelson Cycle Trails trust project manager Stuart Hughes said a similar swing bridge would be built over the Appleby River, from the end of Lower Queen St, before November.
The trail leading to that bridge around the Waimea Estuary would open before Christmas, he said. A number of contracts for the Waimea Estuary section of the trail were under way, and a contract for half of the trail from Brightwater to Wakefield had been let, he said.
- © Fairfax NZ News