Problems dog cycle trail's progress
The opening of the Around the Mountains cycle trail has been delayed, with private landowners saying they felt "bullied" into signing land access agreements.
Despite construction being well under way, the exact route of stage one from Mossburn to Kingston is yet to be determined, as land access negotiations continue with affected property owners near Athol.
Problems contracting out work for bridge constructions on the trail have also pushed back the completion date.
Some Athol landowners negotiating land access for the trail claim they feel pressured into accepting routes through their properties they are not happy with.
Southland District Council services and assets group manager Ian Marshall confirmed the council was still negotiating the final stage one route with landowners.
Stage one was initially scheduled to be completed by the end of October but was now not expected to be completed until December, hopefully before Christmas, he said.
The Government, which had contributed the $3.7 million needed to fund the first stage, had been informed of the timetable changes.
Negotiations with the affected landowners would need to be resolved within the next two weeks, Mr Marshall said.
Property owners still negotiating said they were not convinced discussions with the council would be completed in two weeks.
One landowner said they would like to have an agreement signed off with the council in a fortnight but they were not confident it would happen.
Property owners were still unhappy with the proposed route but felt "bullied and blackmailed" into agreeing, the landowner said.
"We've just thrown our hands in the air and gone, oh, look, just do it . . . it's been such a nasty battle with them."
They wanted to arrange a meeting with new Southland District Council Mayor Gary Tong and councillors in Athol to further discuss the trail.
Mr Marshall could not be contacted yesterday afternoon to respond to the landowner claims.
Another landowner, Helen Innes, who has been involved in negotiations for two years, said the council had proposed directing the trail along a road only metres from her front door and farm sheds.
She would like to see the trail continue along the railway line, but had not heard back from the council for about a month, she said.
Cycling down a gravel road used by stock trucks after travelling along the "beautiful" railway line trail would ruin the overall experience for cyclists and create safety issues, she said.
Mrs Innes also believed cyclists using the road as part of the trail would create stock access and privacy issues for her family.
Both landowners said they believed negotiations had been prolonged by Around the Mountain Cycle Trail Ltd director Mike Barnett.
Mr Barnett did not respond to a request for comment yesterday afternoon.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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