By GUY WILLIAMS
Work on major extensions to the Queenstown Trail connecting Arthurs Point, Tucker Beach and Arrowtown could begin this summer.
After two years of work talking to landowners and lining up funding, the Queenstown Trails Trust has applied for resource consent for the new cycling and walking trails.
If successful, it’ll add another 20-odd kilometres to the 130km-plus trails network in the Wakatipu.
Trust boss Mark Williams says the $8 million project will provide much-needed economic stimulus to the resort, and is calling on locals to back the proposal when it’s consulted on this winter.
He says the Covid-19 lockdown has given many locals a renewed appreciation for the trails, while others have discovered them for the first time.
Some of the trail counts recorded over the past few weeks have been up 250 per cent on normal, which is “incredible” given only locals are riding them.
“The trails are being recognised as a huge asset for helping a lot of people get through this crisis, just by getting out the door and being able to recreate.
“They are a big part of what people choose to live in Queenstown for.”
He expects a commissioners’ hearing to be held by spring, and is aiming to have the trails consented and a contractor ready to start construction by next summer.
But he’s keen to stress although the application’s been filed, not all the routes are locked
in, with some easements across private property yet to be finalised.
‘‘We need to be understanding that it’s everybody’s right to either approve or deny access,
but we’re very thankful for the support we’ve had from a huge number of landowners.’’
The application includes some alternative routes as a ‘‘back-up option’’ if agreements can’t be reached.
Williams says the new routes would bring the Queenstown Trail into a part of the Basin that
is not well connected to the network.
In particular, they will ‘‘connect the loop’’ between Arthurs Point and Frankton, via Tucker Beach.
The benefits are for the community ‘‘first and foremost’’, providing new options for
residents to cycle to work or high school, as well as connecting to more adventurous trails in the hills.
‘‘In the future they might again become a regional tourism drawcard, and eventually
international tourists will come back, but the key thing for us is we’re developing this as an asset for our community.’’
Although a portion of it’s conditional, funding was finalised last year.
Half the money’s been raised locally, including a $1.2m grant from the Central Lakes Trust,
Queenstown’s council, ‘Friends of the Trust’ supporters and a philanthropist who also owns land along the route.
The local funding’s being matched 50-50 by the government’s New Zealand Cycle Trail
New cycle routes to ‘connect the gap’
A key section of the proposed trail is the long-talked-about ‘missing link’ that closes the
gap between Arthurs Point and Frankton via Tucker Beach.
From the trail end at the Tucker Beach wildlife management reserve, the trail would extend another 2km to the western end of the Tucker Beach recreation reserve.
From there it would cross the Shotover River over a new 80-metre-long suspension
bridge to the northern bank.
It would then traverse the river gorge — now only accessible by jetboat — and pass through an historic, 116m-long gold mining tunnel before emerging on to Big Beach below Arthurs Point.
Queenstown Trails Trust boss Mark Williams says the gorge section will be an ‘‘incredible experience’’ and one of the most stunning trails in the country.
From Big Beach, one fork would connect to the existing link trail leading up to Arthurs
Point, while the other would head north, passing beneath Littles and Malaghans Roads
before reaching the foot of Coronet Peak.
This 14km section would continue along the base of Coronet Peak, connecting to several backcountry trails, then run beside Malaghans Rd before joining up with an existing trail at Millbrook Resort.