Main street pedal likely to be costly
Poll Southland District Mayor Gary Tong wants the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail route amended to ensure all cyclists pedal down Athol's main street, but it will cost taxpayers up to $400,000 extra.
The estimated $8 million trail from Kingston to Walter Peak is being built in two stages costing about $4m each.
The first stage, from Kingston to Mossburn, is funded by the Government and the second stage, from Mossburn to Walter Peak, is being underwritten by the Southland District Council.
But controversy has enveloped the first stage due to fraught and ongoing negotiations between several landowners and the district council.
Tong said yesterday the council had now signed agreements with two of the last three affected landowners and he wanted to bypass the third landowner's property, which a "paper road" runs through, and instead take the trail through public land.
This would ensure all the cyclists pedalled through the centre of Athol instead of being able to bypass the town.
"This trail has been proposed to increase the economy of some of our small towns so why bypass them," he said.
It would cost extra to go through the public land because two bridges had to be built over the Mataura River.
Southland District Council chief executive Dave Adamson indicated it could be up to $400,000 extra, but said the figure was not finalised.
Tong said he wanted the issue sorted by Christmas, but he was not holding his breath because the council was in negotiations with the Government to pay the extra money.
He hoped the first stage of the trail would be completed in February or March next year.
Athol Cafe & Gifts owner Carol Skilling said it had been a long wait for the cycleway.
"It's been seven years to get where it is, all we want is for it to be finished so people can use it."
Tong has commissioned an independent person to do a "scoping report" outlining details of the cycleway trail project so far. His main focus in ordering the report was to avoid similar issues occurring with trail stakeholders during stage two, he said.
Tong said funding for stage two would come from money that may be left over from stage one, sponsorship and grants.
"It's being actively sought."
He hoped district ratepayers would not have to pay any of the $4m required.
Adamson indicated none of the $4m for stage two had been nailed down by the council.
When repeatedly asked if any funds had been secured, he would only say grants had been applied for and other funding avenues such as partnerships were being explored.
The Southland Times