By MARK PRICE
A ‘‘huge roadblock’’ is holding up a start on the next leg of the $26.3 million Central Otago cycle trail network that would link Queenstown with Cromwell.
The Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust will officially open the Cromwell to Clyde leg on May 8.
Ideally, it would have gone straight on with the Cromwell to Queenstown leg, through the Kawarau Gorge, which would establish a link to hundreds of kilometres of off-road trails stretching almost to the east coast.
But frustrated trust chairman Stephen Jeffery tells Mountain Scene work can’t start till the trust’s sure it has access through land administered by Department of Conservation (DoC).
Last year — four years after the trail network was announced by then-Prime Minister John Key — DoC began consider ing where cycle trails could be constructed on its land in Otago.
Its partial review of its Otago Conservation Management Strategy generated 1700 written public submissions, and a hearing day in Queenstown last Monday, following hearings in Wanaka.
Jeffery says the DoC decision isn’t expected till the end of this year.
Only then can the trust apply for resource consent from the Queenstown Lakes and Central Otago district councils and Otago Regional Council.
Construction could take a further two years.
The cycle network project got the thumbs-up from Key in May 2016, and a three-way funding arrangement has been in place ever since.
Jeffery says construction costs have continued to climb.
‘‘Any hold-up we get hurts.
‘‘So, at the moment we are hamstrung on all trail construction because of the partial review.
‘‘It’s holding us up big-time.
‘‘Is it frustrating?
‘‘Well I won’t even tell you the words because you would’’t be able to put them in the paper.’’
Starting work on the Cromwell to Wanaka leg as an alternative isn’t an option because of the same DoC issues, he says.
Some of the contractors expecting to do the Kawarau Gorge leg are instead working on extending the trail south of Lawrence towards Dunedin.