'Coastal Pacific Rail Trail' supporters call on Government for cycleway funds
Supporters of an east coast cycleway are calling on the Government to back the project before the window of opportunity presented by the earthquake closes.
Momentum is building for the proposal, to extend a cycleway from the Marlborough Sounds some 350 kilometres south to Christchurch along the east coast.
But advocates say the Government needs to move quickly if it is to become a reality, by incorporating the cycleway into repairs taking place on State Highway 1.
Marlborough wine company owner Dr John Forrest said it was crucial the Government committed to the project before designs for highway repairs were finalised.
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"The message needs to be sent all the way to the Beehive, this won't just benefit Marlborough but New Zealand as a whole," he said.
Forrest stressed the benefits the cycleway would provide, calling on Prime Minister Bill English to publicly support the proposal to help set it in motion.
Kaikoura MP Stuart Smith held a meeting on Friday, where the idea was discussed, along with other proposed cycleways that could link together to help create the trail.
Preliminary studies had already been undertaken by volunteers affiliated with the Bike Walk Marlborough Trust for trails between Picton and Blenheim, and Blenheim to Clarence.
The two trails were part of the Marlborough Discovery Trail vision, a 10-year plan set down by the trust which included upgrade work on the Queen Charlotte Track and finishing the Link Pathway, between Havelock and Picton.
Forrest said the overall 'Coastal Pacific Rail Trail' plan could be done in partnership with the work already achieved, with the Government funding the section between Clarence and Cheviot.
"I think the partnership model is the right way to go, it's naive to think the Government is going to pony up for the whole trail," he said.
"But it needs to do the big parts of it, which is the major reconstruction, we've got to make them take 100 per cent responsibility for that difficult bit from Clarence to Cheviot."
Smith said he had spoken to senior Government figures, including English, Deputy Prime Minister Paula Bennett, and Transport Minister Simon Bridges about the proposal.
"Stuart Smith has raised this idea with me and I think it's an interesting one that's worth thinking about. I've asked to discuss this with NZTA and expect to do so in the near future," Bridges said.
New Zealand Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said while the agency had not been formally asked to incorporate a cycleway, the idea had been raised numerous times.
"Tourism opportunities and ways to improve the route for all travellers, including cyclists, are an important part of the discussion at this design stage alongside the need to provide access for local residents," he said.
Both Marlborough Mayor John Leggett and Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray supported the idea, emphasising the opportunity presented by the earthquake.
"What's being discussed here is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and as a council we're fully behind it," Leggett said.
Smith said the work being done on the Main North Line and SH1 meant machinery was already in place to build the cycleway, which he said would be a fraction of the overall cost.
"Adding a couple metres for a cycleway to the edge of the road would be a very small cost."
- The Marlborough Express