Secret tunnel discovery amazes

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A newly-discovered mining tunnel on the banks of the Shotover River is set to become a bikers’ paradise.

While scouting the land near Arthurs Point for new track locations, the Queenstown Trails Trust discovered the tunnel hidden behind some scrub.

About 100-metres long, it still has old tram lines inside, and was likely dug in about 1887.

Trust boss Mark Williams says the find was “amazing”.

“It’s really exciting, if we can get this tunnel as part of the trail, it could be a world-renowned trail.”

The tunnel starts on Department of Conservation land on one side and comes out on the riverbank.

While the floor is covered in pools of water and a few old logs, Williams reckons it’ll be a simple process to get it up to scratch.

The trust quickly got in touch with Heritage New Zealand, whose staff are enthusiastic about the tunnel being used, he says.

Lakes District Museum boss David Clarke believes it may have been used for bringing water in from the river, in what was a “very intensive area for dredging”.

The new trail will form stage one of the trust’s plan to connect the outer suburbs of Queenstown through a trail network.

The tunnel opens onto the banks of the Shotover River

Williams says stage one involves connecting Arrow-town to Arthurs Point, and Arthurs Point to Frankton.

Stage two will connect Jack’s Point to Frankton.

While the trails are a visitor attraction, Williams says it will also have a big impact for locals.

Cycling connections are particularly important given the relocation of Wakatipu High School to Frankton, he says.

“There’s no safe way to get there on a bike.”

stage one begins within the next 12-18 months.

While people might be tempted to check out the tunnel for themselves, Williams says access to the opening is on private land. The trust is in the process of negotiating access.

Next month also marks the start of the trust’s annual appeal.

Donations can be made on the Queenstown Trail website.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz