Great Barrier Island is emphasising its wealth of natural features and paucity of cars in an application to become part of the New Zealand Cycleway.
The island's community board prepared a last-minute application to join the cycleway after finding out about a pre-Christmas deadline from the National MP for Auckland Central, Nikki Kaye, whose electorate covers Great Barrier.
Although the application was prepared on Ms Kaye's suggestion while she was attending the island's Christmas Parade, the community board has told the Ministry of Tourism it shares her passion for the cycleway and believes it will complement other proposals for Auckland and Waiheke.
"It adds the diversity and the ruggedness many international and domestic tourists crave," the board said in its application.
At the same time, the board said it was critical to the future of the island community and economy to extend tourism attractions beyond the six-week summer holiday season.
The application has joined 52 others from around New Zealand for funding for feasibility studies for the second stage of the cycleway, which is being championed by Prime Minister John Key as an initiative developed from last year's Job Summit.
Cycle Action Auckland has lodged an application for 10 rides around mainland Auckland and two on Waiheke, with support from Ms Kaye, the Transport Agency and several councils.
A technical advisory group, which was set up by the ministry, is expected to assess the applications this month, and Cycle Action deputy chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert expects a decision by the end of March.
Great Barrier project spokeswoman Gendie Somerville-Ryan said the island had everything to offer cycling visitors from rare volcanic pinnacles to spectacular native forest, beaches and endangered pateke (brown teal) ducks.
It also offered a new heritage and arts village at Claris, and a wide range of accommodation from backpackers' to five-star luxury grade.
She believed the fact Great Barrier was off the national electricity grid and that most residents used solar or wind power would give it extra appeal to tourists looking for examples of sustainable development.
Although much of a 40km to 50km cycling route between Tryphena, Medlands, Claris, Whangaparapara and Port Fitzroy was on formed roads, the island had fewer than 400 cars to compete for space.
Some tracks would have to be upgraded for accessibility to a wide range of visitors, but there was a full designated route which did not require consents from land-owners for development.
Ms Somerville said upgrading a track through Department of Conservation land to the west of the island between Whangaparapara and Fitzroy would serve a double purpose of providing an all-weather alternative route for emergencies when the only road linking the southern and northern ends of the island became flooded.
Cycle Action Auckland says its proposal for rides through mainland Auckland and Waiheke is designed to show tourists the best of what the region has to offer before they head off to other parts of the country.
Ms Cuthbert said these included routes past Ambury Farm Park on Manukau Harbour, along the Auckland waterfront, and a "gorgeous spell-binding" ride starting with a ferry trip to Devonport and including a circuit up and down both sides of the peninsula via Bayswater and Cheltenham Beach. "We should be encouraging both international and local visitors to see Auckland in a different light- to make visitors realise the gems that are here now," she said.
"A lot of the rides are well-kept secrets which even a lot of Aucklanders don't know about."
Although the proposed rides are all on formed roads or tracks, requiring minimal extra investment, Ms Cuthbert said signposting and branding them under the New Zealand Cycleway was essential to popularise them and create job opportunities around them.
These could include shuttle van operators to carry visitors with their bicycles to and from various trials, or extra accommodation along the way.
Ms Cuthbert said she had encountered three groups of overseas cyclists last week who had all travelled to Waiheke within 24 hours of arriving at Auckland Airport before becoming lost because of the absence of adequate signs.
"We want local signs and recognition that they are part of the New Zealand Cycleway - that's going to be the international bring-on."