Mountainbike park tipped for Bluff

    Southland Mountain Bike Club president Donald Heslip says the Bluff Hill track is considered one of the best in the country and he wants to explore the potential of the site.

    WITH the increasing popularity of the sport, a Southland group wants to make Bluff a premiere destination for mountainbiking in the country.

    The Southland Mountain Bike Club is looking for funders to develop a $1.5 million mountainbike recreation precinct at Bluff Hill/Motopuhe which would include about 13 tracks for all levels, a skill area with pump and a dual skills track and picnic area.

    Club president Donald Heslip said the main idea was to create an attraction to diversify the range of activities for the Bluff community, while also enhancing business opportunities for the hospitality sector.

    “We have a big asset in Bluff that we do not utilise enough and we always wanted to make more out of it. It is the nearest hill we’ve got and Bluff is a great community.

    “Mountainbiking is growing, especially with Covid-19. There have been a lot more people and people have been aware of their personal well-being. ”

    Club membership had increased by about 25% in the past year and Mr Heslip believed there was demand for a mountain biking destination.

    When people visited Bluff, they quite often went to the Stirling Point and Bluff signs, he said.

    The group believed the development would help attract and retain visitors in the region.

    “They can spend a day or half a day exploring the tracks, then have something to eat and would be staying in accommodation in Bluff or in Invercargill.”

    The precinct would also offer potential business opportunities for locals, including transfers from the car park to Bluff Hill, bike hire, and potential partnerships with other mountainbiking regions like Queenstown and the possible Waikaia biking development.

    It was also an important asset for the young community as the region had enormous potential for the development of “A-league mountainbikers” coming from the region example, Southland’s top junior biker Josh Burnett.

    The existing six bike trails on Bluff Hill were built and maintained by club members on a volunteer basis and funded through membership fees and community funders.

    The club also had the custodianship of about 20 tracks at Sandy Point, at Otatara.

    However, the precinct project would not be feasible to be completed without external funding, he said.

    “We can’t fund it on our own, we don’t have the membership [numbers].

    “We put this proposal to help rejuvenate Bluff and because we think it has an enormous potential.”

    The Invercargill City Council this week approved, as part of its long-term plan, the allocation of $527,000 in 2023/2024 and then $610,000 in 2025/2026 for the Active Recreation Precinct, which the mountainbike club’s proposal was part of.

    However, it was still unclear if the budget was destined for this specific project.

    Councillors also requested to council’s officers to continue to collaborate with the Mountain Bike Club to look for opportunities to achieve success in the Active Recreation Precinct.

    The club’s proposal also aimed to link with a cycling trail from Invercargill and would investigate the feasibility of establishing a new mixed used trail from Bluff to Omaui via a backcountry, coastal route.

    National and international competitions could be hosted there.

    Mr Heslip said it was a two-year project and, if funding was secured by mid-year, the new tracks would be available for 2022’s summer.

    “The advantage for us [the club] is minimal, the benefit for the community is huge.

    “Bluff for us is a gem with good hills and an incredible community,” he said.