A Lake Hayes landowner is legally blocking a popular access track to the new Queenstown Trail and Kawarau River.
Alec Robins Road farmer King Allen has put a gate and warning sign on a small slice of his land, preventing cyclists, trampers and anglers from using a paper road leading to the riverside trail.
With the $5.4 million Queenstown Trail opening last month, over 2000 people used one popular section at Labour Weekend – emerging publicity is likely to boost patronage over summer.
“Heaps” of trail-goers have already crossed his patch of dirt, Allen says:
“We’ve had one or two bikers coming through at night – which annoys me because you don’t know who’s hanging round your house or sheds.
“Last Friday at 3am, we got woken up with a noisy Subaru driving from house to house trying to find a way through there,” he says.
“If my wife or daughter-in-law are home by themselves, they get a bit nervous.
“That’s the main reason for stopping the [trail] access,” Allen says.
He stresses he’s not anti the trail – “I gave [the Wakatipu Trails Trust] an easement over some land for it.”
Queenstown council’s community services boss Paul Wilson says Allen is within his rights.
“His gate, I believe, is on his legal boundary, there’s a survey peg there,” Wilson says.
His council wants to restore trail access from Alec Robins Rd: “We’re certainly aware it’s a desirable access point for some people.”
Wilson says a “relatively straightforward” track skirting Allen’s land could link with the paper road leading to the trail.
Several small trail jobs are yet to be done “and that might well be one of them”, Wilson says.
The problem is funding: “I don’t yet know whether we’ve got any money to do it,” he says.
Otago Fish & Game is also on the case after an angler queried the blockage of the paper road.
F&G boss Niall Watson of Dunedin tells Mountain Scene he wrote to the council last week.
“F&G sees the network of unformed roads vested in the council as an important public resource providing access to a range of areas with recreational potential, particularly lakes and rivers,” he says.
“In this case, the piece of [paper] road concerned now provides a loop from the trail back to the main road and a drop-off/pick-up point, as well as river access for anglers,” Watson says.
“It’s important to emphasise that the Queenstown council doesn’t own unformed public roads,” he adds – paper roads are meant to provide “unhindered public access”.
F&G has already protested to the council about licences to occupy being issued for parts of paper roads, Watson says.
“That’s of serious concern to us and does not appear well-founded in law.”