Cycleway the only way

By Andre Hueber

Photo / Adventure South
Photo / Adventure South

Eleven of the 18 routes that will make up the New Zealand Cycle Trail now have sections open and businesses around the country are preparing to reap the benefits.

Prime Minister John Key launched the project after the February 2009 Job Summit with the aim of stimulating the recession-stricken economy.

The Government kicked it off with a $50 million funding injection, and local communities stumped up another $30 million. The idea is for all 18 rides to be ready for use by summer 2012-2013.

Jane and Darren Gamble own Ohakune's Station Lodge and have set up a mountain bike hire business called Mountain Bike Station in the hope of riding out the area's traditionally quiet summer season.

It was "pure luck" their accommodation business was only metres away from Old Coach Rd, an historic route through native forest which travels past the Hapuawhenua viaduct, Darren said.

Now part of the cycle trail, it opened in July last year and the couple spent $12,000 on 20 dual-suspension bikes and a custom-designed bike trailer.

It took eight months for them to cover costs. "Between December and February we hired around four bikes a day and in weekends around 10. That's without marketing, based on word of mouth," Jane said.

Bike Shop manager at Ohakune's TCB Ski Board and Bike, James Foubister, is also hoping for a piece of the pie.

"It's given me and two others full-time employment all year round when, come November, we would usually be looking for something to do. We started with around 30 bike hires a day and that's risen to 60."

Bryan and Anne Samuel, owners of Rhubarb Cafe in the small Waikato settlement of Arapuni, said the cycle trail was one of the main reasons they bought their cafe.

"We're in an area where there's no eateries - Putaruru is the closest. Since sections of the track opened in the past few months we've been selling lots of coffees."

May and Lance Hodgson of Out in the Styx Guesthouse are located near Maungatautari ecological island on the cycle trail, between Rotorua and Waitomo. It had been difficult getting international travellers to move away from those mainstream destinations, Lance said.

"The first few years will probably be slow. The biggest mission will be to make sure that those who do do it have a great time."

Co-owner Mike Barnett set up Around the Mountains Ltd after John Key approved $4 million for the Queenstown trail Around the Mountains.

"It'll be running by autumn next year but we've already been organising day guides and booking hire trips across Lake Wakatipu to Lake Mavora and back."

Bike business takes off

One of New Zealand's largest cycle tour operators, Adventure South, started offering guided tours on the Alps to Ocean route between Mt Cook Village and Oamaru for the first time last year with three tours and 15 people.

It is hoping that will grow to nine tours between November and April, owner Geoff Gabites says. "To date the national cycleway represents 15 per cent of our turnover and 25 per cent of our numbers, so it is still a reasonably low-yield product." The company has set up a new arm in Twizel called Cycle Journeys offering cycle hires, luggage transfers and accommodation bookings.

Gabites says figures for the well-established Otago Rail Trail show 9 per cent are part of guided tours, 50 per cent are independent travellers who simply want to rent a bike and have their luggage moved on, and the remainder are Kiwis who've brought their own bikes.

- Herald on Sunday

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