Councillors testy over cycle trail

A heated discussion erupted at a Southland District Council meeting when questions were asked about funding for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.

Councillors Stuart Baird and John Douglas spoke over top of each other in raised voices after Baird said ratepayers were concerned about who would foot the bill if the council could not secure the $3.5 million needed to complete the trail.

The number of people forecast to use the trail was estimated when there were no other cycle trails in the region, he said.

"Now there are six cycle trails all over the district . . . it's obvious we're only going to get a quarter of the cyclists we thought we were going to get."

Douglas said the target market for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail was cyclists who could afford to pay to use it.

Baird and Douglas began speaking at the same time with voices raised, until Baird firmly told Douglas to "wait until I'm finished".

Baird called for any funding shortfall to be covered by a targeted rate for those who will benefit most from the trail.

Chief executive Dave Adamson, Mayor Gary Tong, and several councillors told Baird the project had been discussed "around this table" at length, and the council had already decided it would go ahead.

"We have been running on budget . . . we are on track . . . there are no alarm bells ringing," Adamson said.

The council had not yet decided who would pay for the cycle trail should they be unable to secure further funding, but there was no intention to fund it from rates, he said.

Councillor Paul Duffy said every aspect of the trail had been discussed and decided by the council, and that information was included in the draft annual plan.

Councillor Lyall Bailey said the council was committed to the trail. "At this stage we're not pulling out . . . I think we just need to get on with it."

The estimated cost of the trail is $8.7m. Funding of $4.2m has been secured from government, but the council's application for $2m from the Lotteries fund only yielded $1m.

The first stage of the cycle trail, from Kingston to Mossburn, is expected to be completed by May.

The construction of the second stage, from Mossburn to Walter Peak, must be completed by the end of 2015, or the government could withdraw their funding.


The Southland Times