John Key's dream of a national cycleway to provide jobs for unemployed youth has become a reality in the middle of Northland - at least for a few months.
More than 90 unemployed young people have been working under the subsidised Community Max scheme to build one of the 18 initial "great rides" planned nationally, in this case from Opua in the Bay of Islands along a disused rail track to Okaihau and then through farmland to Horeke on the Hokianga Harbour.
About 800 cyclists turned out for the opening of the first stage, from Okaihau down the western side of Lake Omapere to Kaikohe, on May 29.
Far North District Council spokesman Rick McCall said the 150km Otago rail trail from Dunedin to Clyde suggested the 84km Twin Coast trail (Pou Herenga Tai) could stimulate numerous new businesses to feed, accommodate and inform the cyclists.
"We've had the Otago people up regularly giving us advice.
"It's mind-boggling the economic impact it's had in Otago and these guys tell us we have more to offer than they have," he said.
"For example, a number of people rang me before the launch and said 'where do we hire a bike?'
"The Otago guys said there are several places hiring bikes for the Otago trail and the major one has 700 bikes in stock.
"You saw the mouths start to drop - hey, there are some real business opportunities here."
The new trail includes a unique series of posts, or pou, carved under the Community Max scheme by 12 formerly unemployed young people aged 16 to 18 supervised by He Iwi Kotahi Tatou Trust.
"The designs come out of the guys themselves," said a trust manager, Debbie Davis. " They all have their own style. They come from around this area. They come after hours too."
The trail is being funded by $4 million from the national cycleway budget and $650,000 in Community Max subsidies.
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