The New Zealand Cycle Trail

By Mark Ross

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Farmers are concerned the lack of facilities in some areas along the New Zealand Cycle Trail could see them cleaning up human waste and litter.

Although Federated Farmers views the trail's development as a positive initiative, farmers have expressed concerns about some operational aspects of the trail.

On paper, economic, job creation, health and tourism benefits make sense. In reality the development of trails in areas such as the Central North Island, Coromandel, Central Otago and Northland are proving problematic from a farming viewpoint.

Farmers' main concerns relate to health and safety, hygiene, in the form of human waste and litter, animal welfare and private property.

Take, for example, the cycle trail being developed along State Highway 43, The Forgotten Highway, in Ruapehu. This is marketed as a 150km cycle over three days, yet there is only one toilet along the whole route.

This creates disease risks for local stock from human faeces being deposited on farm paddocks. Other factors, such as unaware cyclists being confronted with animals or farm vehicles using the road, are an accident waiting to happen.

It doesn't help that there is no cellphone coverage or emergency services within the cycle trail range. It has also been observed by some farmers that overseas tourists using the cycle trails are often poorly prepared for the rough terrain and, if they come through unscathed, can be pretty traumatised.

Federated Farmers has raised these issues with Cycle Trail officials and will be meeting in early 2012 to discuss them, with the goal of developing solutions that work.

The initial cycle trail project proposal was presented at the February 2009 job summit. It was seen as a way of generating economic wealth and building a valuable new tourism asset for New Zealand.

When a survey showed four out of five New Zealanders supported the project, the proposal was given the go-ahead. The Government has since invested $50 million into the trails, with 18 rides either in development or completed.

Communities have also provided around $30m towards various trail developments.

Because of the rural nature of the trails, a large number of farmers have been involved either directly, via provision of land access, or indirectly through redirection of their rates.

- Hamilton News

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