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By GUY WILLIAMS

The backers of a major extension to the Queenstown Trail have finally got a date to argue their case before council-appointed commissioners.

The Queenstown Trails Trust’s plan to build cycling routes between Arthurs Point, Tucker Beach and Arrowtown will be considered at a resource consent hearing on April 14 and 15.

If its application’s approved, the trust hopes to turn the first sod by the end of the year.

The $8 million project will add another 20km or so to the 130km-plus trails network in the Whakatipu, including a long-sought-after direct route between Arthurs Point and Frankton
via Tucker Beach.

Although funding was confirmed in 2019 — half raised locally and the rest from the government’s New Zealand Cycle Trail fund — the project hit a judder bar last year after the trust’s application to the environment ministry for fast-track consenting status was rejected.

That’s because part of the Arthurs Point to Tucker Beach section is on public conservation land, and under the Department of Conservation’s (DoC) Otago conservation management strategy (CMS), it can’t give a concession for mountain biking on such land.

DoC’s since proposed a ‘partial review’ of the CMS that would allow that part of the trail, and others around the region, to be approved.

But trust boss Mark Williams tells Mountain Scene that won’t happen before the consent hearing.

‘‘We got to a point where we simply couldn’t hold any longer, because this is a process that’s been going on for coming up three years now.’’

If the project gets the tick from the commissioners, the trust will have to wait for the CMS issue to be resolved before it can build that part of the trail, Williams says.

But construction can be staged to work around the issue.

‘‘We can probably begin in Arrowtown and work towards Arthurs Point, and by the time we get to the Arthurs Point to Tucker Beach section, the CMS issues will be resolved.’’

If consent’s granted, the next step is to sign off the detailed design, then put out the construction tender — work could start late this year.

guy.williams@scene.co.nz