Cycle project could take a decade

A cycle trail linking Te Anau and Manapouri could be the best such facility in any National Park and should be approved, a new report says.

But first, two key conservation strategies need to be reviewed, the report says.

Findings from a feasibility study commissioned by Venture Southland, to investigate cycling opportunities around Te Anau, were released this week.

The report says there is huge support from the community to make Te Anau more cycle-friendly and to create new cycling opportunities in the area.

It says a Te Anau-Manapouri Cycleway could become a flagship development, but the statutory process required by the Department of Conservation means the project could take up to 10 years to complete.

The study recommends the trail run through two stretches of Fiordland National Park, and link with other potential and existing trails in the Te Anau area.

However, building cycle trails in national parks is not permitted under DOC's regional Conservation Management Strategy or the National Park Management Plan.

The report says the project cannot proceed until the two documents are reviewed.

"While it seems that there is a good chance the route could be approved, the two statutory processes will take as long as 10 years to complete, and there is no guarantee."

It would be difficult to raise funds to build the trail while there was no certainty of approval.

Te Anau Community Board representative on the Fiordland Trails Trust, Rachel Cockburn, said the Te Anau-Manapouri Cycleway had been its key focus for a long time.

The trust waited for the report so it could see the potential trail from someone else's view, she said.

It would be proactive in gathering community support between now and the DOC reviews, and might be able to start work on other cycle trails that could link in with the Te Anau-Manapouri Cycleway later.

Cockburn said she was very excited to be reading the report, and it provided a great "bird's-eye view" of cycling opportunities in the area.

The report recommends work be done to develop the wider Te Anau area in the meantime, including upgrading existing tracks, changing infrastructure around the town to make it more cyclist-friendly, and building a track between Queens Reach and Rainbow Reach, even though that trail would have the most value if it connected to the Te Anau-Manapouri Cycleway.

It suggests a rebuild of the tracks in Ivon Wilson Park, which is close to the Te Anau township, and shared by walkers and cyclists, and also identified problems with infrastructure in the town, such as cycle lane and signage issues.

The possibility of cycling on the Tuatapere Hump Ridge Track and the establishment of a cycle trail from Mavora Lakes to Te Anau should also be investigated, while other projects in the area should be monitored, the report says.

Last year the Te Anau Community Board and Destination Fiordland identified the growing interest and demand in cycling as an opportunity for Te Anau, and a need to identify associated opportunities and challenges.

A presentation of the study's findings will be held on Wednesday from 7pm to 9pm at the Fiordland Health Centre Community Room in Te Anau.

The Southland Times