No place for Auckland on national cycle trail

By Rachel Tiffen

Auckland has fallen off the $50 million national cycle trail map.

But local campaigners are determined to make proposed routes happen anyway.

"The benefits to Aucklanders in terms of tourism and recreation from delivering these rides would be massive," said Nikki Kaye, Auckland Central MP and keen pedaller.

"Waiheke is already being cycled by many tourists and I will be meeting with the community and businesses over the coming weeks to determine a plan to deliver these projects."

The 13 stand-out winners chosen for the next round of feasibility funding for the national cycleway project were announced yesterday, split between the islands with six up north and seven in the south.

Applications were judged on market demand, showcasing New Zealand, short- and long-term economic benefits and partnership and stakeholder support.

The routes, which stretch from a historic coach road track on the east coast to the Clutha Gold Trail in Otago, will be studied to check whether price and concept can be delivered.

If approved for construction, they will combine with seven "quick-starts" already under development to form a 2000km national cycleway. The Ministry of Tourism is not ruling out more trails down the track.

"Our current focus is on the current funding available," said programme manager John Dunn. "Nonetheless there is a groundswell of support for this project and perhaps once the Great Rides are established and a proven success, a further network of trails may be considered."

Prime Minister John Key said the 13 chosen routes promised trails of spectacular beauty across both islands and would offer stunning off-road scenery.

Waiheke Island and Great Barrier Island were among those cut from 54 applications. But supporters were defiant in defeat.

Ms Kaye said selection was always going to be tough and the announcement was great news for cycle-loving Kiwis, despite the Auckland loss.

Anecdotal evidence suggested the number of tourist cyclists had increased through publicity about the proposed cycleway, she said.

Cycle Action spokeswoman Barb Cuthbert was buzzing. "I looked at the 54 and they were just so exciting and I think those 13 can only be superb," she said. "What I'm pleased about is that those 54, they're not going away ... Yes they're not getting money but there is a huge amount of energy behind the rides."

Tony King-Turner, who compiled the Waiheke proposal, was determined to follow through.

"It's great that so many exciting rides throughout New Zealand have been offered and so much energy generated," he said.

Auckland City transport committee chairman Ken Baguley was less upbeat. He had not seen the list of winners, but was disappointed there was nothing there from Auckland.

"I don't think we got organised soon enough," Mr Baguley said. "Waiheke was very late off the blocks."

- NZ Herald

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