OPINION: The $11 million cycle trail is a loop track that starts and finishes in Queenstown.
In the Southland District Council area the cycle trail only passes through Garston, Athol, Lumsden and Mossburn. Half the cycle trail (100km), a two-day ride past Mavora to Walter Peak, has no accommodation, etc; it only completes the loop back to Queenstown.
Council has acknowledged Queenstown will receive as much economic benefit as the Southland District Council, which is financing the cycle trail including all construction and maintenance.
The cycle trail is owned by the SDC, responsible for the management, operation and maintenance. Other cycle trails have been set up as a trust, with no ongoing costs to the ratepayer.
SDC recently held roading meetings throughout the district explaining why it can't maintain its roads to the present standard because of a shortage of roading funding. Options presented were: reduce road maintenance, increase road rates by 60 per cent, revert 20 per cent of tarsealed roads back to gravel, saying the problem will only get worse over the next 10 years.
The cycle trail is estimated to cost $11m less the government grant of $4m leaving $7m - plus annual track maintenance of $150,000 at a cost to ratepayers of over $800,000 each year.
An indication of the cost of the cycle trail to each ratepayer will be about $50 each year. Ratepayers in the Wallace ward I represent, will contribute - Otautau $20,000, Ohai $10,000, Nightcaps $10,000; total Wallace ward $75,000 each year. Other examples - Te Anau ward ratepayers - $130,000 each year, Winton ward ratepayers - $115,000 each year, Wallacetown ward ratepayers - $50,000 each year.
The council has started constructing the cycle trail before the full route is defined, not having all consents in place, not having all contracts and tenders secured, not having all funding in place; final costs are not known, only estimated.
CR STUART BAIRD
Southland District Council
- The Southland Times