Prime Minister John Key has announced that construction will begin by summer on the first legs of his national cycleway, including a route from Lake Wakatipu to Bluff.
He detailed several trails for his "patchwork quilt" of a cycleway between Kaitaia and Bluff, on which the Government will spend $50 million over three years.
Mr Key told Local Government NZ's annual conference in Christchurch the Government had set aside $9 million from the $50 million New Zealand Cycleway Fund for projects earmarked for a 'Quick Start'.
He said 21 mayors and chaipersons had recommended a small number of projects they believed could be started this summer.
The projects that have been selected for 'Quick Start' are: Waikato River Trail, Central North Island Rail Trail, Mount Ruapehu to Wanganui, St James Trail, Hokianga to Opua/Russell, Hauraki Plains Trail and Southland Around the Mountain Rail Trail.
Mr Key said some of the tracks needed further feasibility work but he was confident they would be "well positioned" for a summer start date.
"These are only the first set of projects for the New Zealand Cycleway. As the number of tracks grow, and cycle tourism increases, the numbers of jobs generated will increase," he said.
Mr Key said the seven tracks were predicted to create an estimated 300 jobs, rising to more than 500 a year with the development of supporting businesses.
The idea, which came out of February's jobs summit, was originally intended as a cycleway spanning the length of the country.
The Government has since said it would instead be made up of a series of "Great Rides" similar to the Otago Rail Trail, with a long-term aim of creating a network throughout the country.
"The overall vision for the New Zealand Cycleway is to generate lasting economic, social and environmental benefits for our communities by a network of great rides through some of our most beautiful scenery."
Mr Key said that a recent survey of the Otago Central Rail Trail found the total value of the trail to the regional economy was $7.2m a year and provided 75 full time jobs.
A report on Britain's national cycle network estimated cycleway projects could generate $18 in benefits for every dollar invested.
The Green Party was involved in the cycleway project which MP Kevin Hague said would give health, environment and community benefits as well as boost tourism.
"We are about to see the development of a network of presently under utilised public assets transformed into useable scenic transport corridors," he said.
"This is the kind of major public work that will benefit both the economy through job creation and increased tourism and the environment through creating low carbon ways to travel - a green new deal solution to the current recession."
Factors considered in selecting tracks included job creation; access to existing tourism attractions and infrastructure and transport; local government commitment; how difficult the track was; the number of nights required; and whether existing structures e.g. rail tracks or embankments, could be used. Feasibility studies were expected to cost up to $200,000 each.
None of the seven tracks would be sealed.
Work would be done on branding existing tracks to come under the national cycleway.
* Hokianga to Opua/Russell - Kaikohe to Okaihau section.
The project would see a 90-kilometre trail from the Hokianga Harbour on the Far North West coast through to Opua/Russell in the Bay of Islands developed. The trail would pass through 11 towns and settlements.
The first section to be completed would be 12km of an old rail corridor between Kaikohe and Okaihau. The trail is historically significant with the area's European history pre-dating the New Zealand land wars, and in parts follows ancient Maori trails.
* Hauraki Plains Trails - Paeroa through Karangahake Gorge to Waihi and Paeroa to Thames (portion of trail).
The Paeroa to Karangahake Gorge through to Waihi trail would include historic gold-mining areas, then follow the river down to Waikino to the head of the vintage railway which leads into Waihi.
The Paeroa to Thames trail would follow a disused railway line with access to areas of ecological significance such as wetlands, that are also being developed, and historic sites. Development of an initial portion of this trail is suggested at this stage.
* Waikato River Trail - Waipapa Dam to Lake Karapiro and Whakamaru to Mangakino.
The total Waikato River Trail will be 100km long and follow the Waikato River and five hydro-lakes from Atiamuri to Horahora. Thirty kilometres of trails were already open for use, 23km are built but yet to be opened, 6km are under construction and a further 41km are planned.
The remaining 41km are sections from a) Waipapa Dam to Lake Karapiro and b) Whakamaru to Mangakino.
These sections are rich in geological and cultural history. Prominent rock formations feature the ancient history of Taupo and Mangakino vulcanology.
Family off-road cycling is the target market with a mountain-biking grade of 2-3 (moderate). The route is connected at both ends to State Highway 1. Thirty five kilometres of it are adjacent to State Highway 30 between Rotorua and Waitomo, with Arapuni also on the northern Rotorua-Waitomo link.
* Central North Island Rail Trail
The proposed 60km (two-day) cycleway runs from Puerora (off State Highway 30), southwards toward Ongarue and Taumarunui (State Highway 4). Ninety five percent of the proposed track would be on the DOC estate.
The proposed cycleway would incorporate the Ongarue tramway, including the Ongarue Spiral and remnants of the historic logging industry including the most complete historic timber mill and village in New Zealand (Eadan's mill). It would traverse the western side of the Hauhungaroa Range through Pureora Forest Park and have a gentle grade, smooth surface, and halfway access point, making it appealing to beginner-intermediate cyclists.
* Mountain to the Sea or Mount Ruapehu to Wanganui - Mangapurua-Kaiwhakauka Track in Whanganui National Park and Old Coach Road Track (Ohakune to Horopito) in Tongariro National Park.
The route would cover 245km (a 4-6 day ride).
A significant proportion of the trail network is already in place. It would start on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, cross the 294-metre Hapuawhenua Viaduct, cycle through Whanganui National Park and cross the iconic Bridge to Nowhere. Users would then take a jet boat ride down the Whanganui River to Pipiriki and cycle to Wanganui along the Whanganui River Road.
The ride would mostly be on tracks managed by DOC, but would also include some public and paper roads managed by district councils.
St James Great Trail (North Canterbury)
The proposal is to develop a 50km great trail mountain bike experience, including opportunities for family and adventure rides.
The ride would provide iconic mountain scenery and a mix of trails through beech forest and grassland valleys. The opportunity would be available to traverse the St James mountain range with vehicle support and cycle the greater part of the upper Waiau Valley.
Hanmer Springs is the major stepping off point for the trail. A well-formed road links Hanmer to the start of the trail, allowing the main entry points to be accessed directly by the public or a commercial provider. It provides well-established infrastructure for visitors and the ability to link cyclists with a range of other opportunities. These include the established trail from St Arnaud to Hanmer, and through Molesworth Station linking Hanmer with the
Awatere Valley near Blenheim.
* Southland/Queenstown Lakes - Around the Mountain Rail Trail.
This trail would be an easy to ride, 175km cycling trail. Participants would depart from Queenstown on the TSS Earnslaw across Lake Wakatipu to Walter Peak. The cycle track would head through Walter Peak and Mount Nicholas Stations, and along the Von Valley, Lake Mavora. It would then follow the Oreti River and from Mossburn along the old railway line to Lumsden.
From Queenstown Around the Mountain Rail Trail, future cycle trails could be developed form Lake Mavora to Te Anau, from Lumsden to Invercargill/Bluff and from Lumsden to Gore/Catlins Coast. Around the Mountain is a spine which allows Southland to develop a network of easy to ride cycle trails linking tourism infrastructure.