By PHILIP CHANDLER
Department of Conservation’s put a spoke in the wheels of planned Queenstown walking/cycle trail extensions — however, steps are underway to solve the problem.
Queenstown Trails Trust’s (QTT) proposing a trail network extension from Arrowtown to Arthurs Point and Tucker Beach, while Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust’s planning a trail through the Kawarau Gorge from Gibbston to Cromwell.
DoC’s opposed resource consents for both because its current Otago conservation anagement strategy (CMS) doesn’t allow cycling on some of the conservation land the trails would pass.
However, it’s proposed a ‘partial review’ that would allow those trails, and others, to be built.
QTT boss Mark Williams is disappointed with DoC’s original stance — ‘‘it’s just unfortunate they’re bound by quite a rigid legislative framework, and it’s not allowing them to be very flexible’’.
But he also understands it needs to look after conservation values.
And he’s delighted DoC’s prepared to backtrack, as it were, with a partial review of its CMS.
‘‘Yes, it’s a shame [the local trail extension] can’t progress soon, but at least we’re going through the partial review process, because if we weren’t having this, well, forget doing hese trails for the next 10 years.
‘‘We don’t want to be in a battle with DoC, we want to be helping them through this.
‘‘I’m hopeful we can do everything that’s required of us to make sure these trails go ahead, and make sure there’s a good outcome for all users of conservation land.
‘‘The frustrating thing has been the expense of going through the process, but that’s what you have to do.’’
Local DoC senior ranger Susie Geh confirms many of the recently-proposed trails go through land parcels not listed in the current CMS, which isn’t up for review till 2026.
‘‘Given the high public interest in new bike trails across Otago, the department decided last year to undertake a partial review of the CMS now, for this particular activity.’’
That draft review, Geh says, is ‘‘supportive of many new locations for bike trails, including a number in the Whakatipu’’.
The public’s already been asked to comment, and hearings will start soon, she confirms.
Issues, she says, will include ‘‘looking at the detail of the ecological, historic and cultural effects, amongst others, of the specific alignments of proposals’’.
‘‘We want to recognise the efforts of the many biking groups and the hard work that goes in to developing their proposals and the benefits they can bring to the community and connecting people with the outdoors.’’