Alarm at costs for bike trail upkeep

HELEN MURDOCH
Last updated 12:58 04/04/2014
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Tasman District councillors are alarmed at staff estimates that Tasman's 175-kilometre Great Taste Cycle Trail could cost close to $200,000 a year to maintain.

However, members of the Nelson Cycle Trail Trust told councillors the future maintenance will be closer to $500 a kilometre, or around $90,000 annually.

Councillors raised their eyebrows at the discrepancy revealed during yesterday's engineering services committee meeting, and asked why staff and the trust had brought two very different figures to the table.

The council's transportation manager, Gary Clark, said staff had talked to the trust about the need to build in long-term maintenance and future additional repair costs into budgets, but the trust had not taken the message on board. He said the trust's future maintenance estimate was "significantly less" than what it was currently billing the council.

Tasman ratepayers now shoulder the maintenance burden for the trail. Stage one, between Richmond and Kaiteriteri, is due to be completed in June, and part of stage two, between Richmond and Wakefield, has also been finished.

The council's Draft Annual Plan, focused on reducing debt, seeks to delay building the $600,000 next stage of the route, between Wakefield and Spooner's Tunnel. It will eventually run through Tapawera and back to Motueka.

The trust now holds the maintenance contract for the trail and has so far billed the council $52,000 for the upkeep of the uncompleted trail this financial year. Staff estimate this year's full cost will be around $63,000.

Richmond councillor Judene Edgar said the trail's annual maintenance would become a pivotal capital cost.

A trust delegation was at the meeting to lobby councillors, urging that funding for the trail be put back into the Annual Plan.

Trustee Bill Gilbertson said the trust planned to pay a rising share of the trail's maintenance costs as it accessed possible future government funding and more associated businesses bought into it.

The trust estimated the council's annual maintenance bill would spike at around $74,000 before levelling out at close to $64,000 once the project was completed in 2018-19. At that stage the trust would be paying about $30,000 towards the trail's upkeep.

"We believe the trail will be a real money spinner for businesses and they will be prepared to put more money into it."

Other trails only moved to be self-funding years after they were completed. "We will only finish the first stage which is useable by tourist operators in June."

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The trust's business development and marketing manager, Catharine Wood, said the trail was popular, with 16,000 cyclists using the Mapua ferry last year, more than 10,000 using the Waimea Inlet trail and 5000 cyclists recorded on the Riwaka to Kaiteriteri trail in three weeks between December and January.

She said the trust wanted to see the trail completed.

"Users and operators believe that for the region to fully capitalise we have to build the full loop," she said.

Tourist industry member and former government cycle trails adviser Craig Wilson told councillors the trail was not just about people riding bikes, but showing them all the region has to offer.

The loop trail was unique in New Zealand as a "light green" tourist opportunity as no return transport was needed.

- Nelson

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