Mountain-biking trail big boost for Waikaia

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A MOUNTAIN-BIKING trail set to boost the economy and attract riders of all abilities to Waikaia has been given the green light.

Ardlussa Community Board member Hilary Kelso opened the public forum at Southland District Council’s (SDC) Services and Assets Committee meeting last Wednesday with a proposal to establish a mountain-biking track in the Waikaia Forest.

“Cycling in New Zealand is a growing, multimillion-dollar activity that will bring huge economic, social and cultural growth, not just to Waikaia and the Ardlussa broader area but to the whole of Southland.”

A community-led initiative, the board had preliminary discussions with world-renowned, Queenstown-based trail builder Tom Hay for the initial master plan and trail design.

At this stage, 50km of trails, catering to a range of abilities had been proposed and initial planning was expected to cost about $20,000.

The complete network was anticipated to be built during several years, as funding and volunteer resources became available.

“We have been doing our homework… one key point struck me; we, as a community board, needed to take responsibility for the development and growth of our area.”

Councillors agreed unanimously to allow for public access to Waikaia Forest for the development and operation of mountain-bike trails, on the condition of formalising an agreement with land manager, IFS Growth Ltd.

A trust would be established, which would be responsible for the mountain-bike trail activity, and a memorandum of understanding entered between SDC and the trust.

Mrs Kelso said the track would bring many opportunities to Waikaia and neighbouring areas, including new cycling businesses, hot pools and hospitality, as well as opportunities for businesses, land and homeowners.

Waikaia resident Colleen Morton said it would provide meaningful benefits to young people and those with disabilities.

“We need things for people who excel outside of the classroom… [we want to] include young people in the planning [process].”

Bike Glendhu director Sam Ruddenklau spoke of his experience establishing a mountainbike trail and its advantages.

The Glendhu Bay park was a privately-run park on 1000ha of private farmland, near Wanaka, with the landowners being a shareholder.

“They wanted to share their property in a way that was sustainable, eco-friendly and they are really big on health and well-being.”

Mr Ruddenklau said he could also see the economic benefit of the mountain-biking sector, including the growth in e-bike sales with 65,000 imported into New Zealand in 2019.

Cr Ebel Kremer commended the presentation and said SDC would have to consider how it managed the surrounding forestry block to avoid harvest damaging the trails.

“It ticks a number of boxes… I can certainly see economic benefit for the community and also district-wide.”

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