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Snag?: Queenstown Trails Trust's plans to route a proposed new trail through this historic tunnel near Arthurs Point might be a consent sticking point

By GUY WILLIAMS

A bridge across the Shotover River, and the use of an old tunnel, could be snags in the Queenstown Trails Trust’s quest to extend its biking trail network.

The trust’s application for resource consent to build the 15km extension between Arthurs Point, Tucker Beach and Arrowtown was considered by commissioners Bob Nixon and
Jane Sinclair at a two-day hearing, which ended yesterday.

It wants to build a suspension bridge across the Shotover at the far end of the Tucker Beach recreation reserve, and route the trail through a tunnel, built for hydro-electric use in the 1960s, near Arthurs Point.

Of 239 submissions on its application, seven are opposed, including some from Tucker Beach residents concerned about the bridge’s visual impact.

Trust counsel Warwick Goldsmith told the commissioners on Wednesday while the bridge could be contentious, it would allow ‘‘spectacular access’’ to the river, and could be seen as a logical step in the river’s history of human interaction.

Goldsmith says as well as the resource consent, the trust will have to get an ‘archaeological authority’ from Heritage New Zealand and an approval under the Conservation Act to build  a section of the trail over public conservation land and run it through the tunnel.

While feeling ‘‘pretty comfortable’’ about the trail section’s prospects, it’s less so about approval for the tunnel.

However, Department of Conservation’s (DoC) sub mission seeking consent to the entire trail be refused was ‘‘unexpected’’, he says.

‘‘Gobsmacked might be a better word.’’

The trust’s preference is for the entire trail to be approved, but should the tunnel prove to be a sticking point, its second preference is that consent relating to the tunnel only be declined.

It could then apply to DoC for approval to use the tunnel, and revisit that aspect of the resource consent at a later stage if necessary.

Goldsmith says DoC’s ‘‘working its proverbial off’’ on a partial review of its Otago conservation management strategy, which in its current version prevents it from considering applications for biking trails on public conservation land.

Public hearings for the review, which has attracted more than 1700 submissions, were held in Wanaka on Monday and Tuesday.

A one-day hearing will be held at Queenstown’s Crowne Plaza hotel this coming Monday.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz