THE contentious Around the Mountains Cycle Trail project has come up against another obstacle after the Environment Court upheld an appeal against consents for stage two of the project.
The Southland District Council (SDC) has resource consent to build about 30km of the trail through the Oreti Valley, but Fish & Game appealed the independent commissioner’s decision to grant the consents because the route would take cyclists past an internationally recognised brown trout fishery area. It wanted the trail to follow the neighbouring Mararoa Valley.
Southland Fish & Game Council chairman Graeme Watson said it was an excellent outcome not only for anglers, but all of Southland because it would save one of the most iconic backcountry areas.
“The judgement upholds our case, stating that unmodified rivers are limited, finite and highly valuable recreational assets.”
Fish & Game was not opposed to the trail and had promoted the alternative route, believing it would be in the best interests of the SDC and Southland’s ratepayers, because it would be as scenic and also cheaper to build and maintain, he said.
It welcomed the opportunity to work with SDC on further assessment of a Mararoa Valley route, Mr Watson said.
The route of the 175km Around the Mountains Cycle Trail was from Kingston to Walter Peak Station, on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. The trail had been completed from Kingston to Centre Hill Rd, north-west of Mossburn, and from Walter Peak to the Mavora Lakes.
Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said the council was disappointed by the Environment Court decision.
“The economies of areas like Lumsden, Mossburn, Five Rivers, Garston and Athol are reporting significant benefits, which small business owners and locals attribute to increased visitor numbers as a direct result of the Around the Mountains Cycle trail development.
“This is a blow, not only for those communities, but for the good work a large number of people have put into the development of cycle tourism throughout the country, as part of the Prime Ministers’ national cycleway project.”
The council would now evaluate its next steps in regards to the project, he said.