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A joint proposal to have the old Motu Coach Trail developed as a part of the New Zealand Cycle Trail project has been approved for feasibility studies. It was one of thirteen “stand-out winners” from the 54 applications that applied for funding in December. A grant towards the feasibility study will be paid for by the New Zealand Cycle Trail fund and involves costing out concept plans to ensure they can be built and will deliver what they promise.
John Dunn, Programme Manager, says the calibre of all the applications was very high which made the Technical Assessment Group’s job of short-listing incredibly difficult. “I want to congratulate all the applicants on the excellent work they put into the concepts,” says Mr Dunn. “Their applications were outstanding and demonstrated a level of commitment to their regions that show how a community can be galvanised into that great Kiwi tradition of ‘getting in behind’ a great idea.”
The Motu Coach Trail proposal was put together by Gisborne District Council, the Department of Conservation and Opotiki District Council. The route will follow stock routes, old coach roads and military tracks that were developed in the mid-1880s to open up the valleys of the Raukumara ranges to settlement and farming.
Mike Houghton, Opotiki District Council’s Parks and Reserve Manager, says that most of the country knows Eastland for the fantastic coastal views between Opotiki and Gisborne. “The cycleway will introduce the rugged inland scenery and bring the unique history of the area to the fore as it follows the historic tracks through the heart of the Raukumaras. I understand one member of the assessment group had ridden through the Motu previously and found the area spectacular. I am sure this would have helped our bid.”
“We must ensure we get the feasibility study right so we can move to the next stage,” according to Councillor Graeme Thomson who was involved in drafting the original proposal. ‘Having said that, this is a fantastic result for the Eastland region. “I have been quietly confident we would get the nod to proceed. The old Motu Coach Trail meets all the objectives the Ministry of Tourism were looking for. It will generate economic benefits, has the support of local communities, provides a world class cycling experience and offers the region many complementary benefits.”
“The trail will attract a completely new tourist market. This will be the springboard many of our tourism operators need to develop their businesses. There are so many opportunities for other adventure activities before, during and after the trail including outstanding bush walks, trout fishing, and white water rafting.”
“It has been a rewarding experience working with Department of Conservation and Opotiki District Council to develop a proposal that benefits us all. The breathtaking beauty of the area will sell the trail for those who do it but first we must get people here. We must all work together to market the experience as a total tourism package. Gisborne with the closest airport to the trail will act as a gateway and so has a significant role to play. We need to develop the infrastructure to ensure that cyclists have opportunities to come together while on the trail or in the evenings and build camaraderie. This is what they will remember long after they return home,” Councillor Thomson added.
People and organisations that are interested in this project, or may be affected by it, should get involved. The trail must have strong backing from local people and businesses. Discussions and consultation will start soon with all affected stakeholders and those that can contribute to the project. The feasibility study is expected to be completed by 31 May 2010 and it is hoped that construction could begin by the end of the year.