The original idea of a cycleway the length of New Zealand sounded good but there were lots of questions about if it would be practical and affordable.
Te Araroa , the walkway from Cape Reinga to Bluff, was suggested as a model but only a relatively few keen and fit trampers are ever going to use much or any of it. A cycleway using parts of the walkway or based on that concept would have had a similarly limited appeal and provided limited opportunities for spin-off businesses.
The current proposal to be discussed by cabinet today is more practical, less expensive, more accessible for more people, will provide more opportunities for smaller communities to be involved and be based on local initiatives.
Plans for one of these, a cycleway from Queenstown to Bluff , are already well advanced.
Planning consultant Mike Barnett, who researched the Lake Wakatipu-Bluff route on behalf of Venture Southland, said the Ministry of Tourism had found “the practical thing was a network of excellent cycle opportunities in New Zealand which may lead to bigger things later.”
Mr Barnett said the network could be totally inter-linked “in 10 or 20 years’ time”.
Mr Barnett said the Lake Wakatipu-Bluff route could be ready in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, as research had been under way for three years.
Building cycelways will provide employement, but the long term jobs which come in its wake will be even more beneficial.
One of the reasons the Central Otago Rail Trail has been so successful is that it was a local initiative and locals have been able to use the opportunities it provides for business initiatives.
It has been particularly good at opening doors for women who followed husbands or partners on to farms or into small coutnry towns where employment opportunities were limited. Thanks to the rail trail they’ve been able to create or work in businesses providing food, accomodation, retail and other activities and have found new outlets for art and crafts.
The cycleway the length of the country sounded good, but a network of cycleways is a much better idea.