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The formation of the Pakihi Track section of the Motu Cycle Trail is almost complete. A new major swing bridge across the Pakihi River will be finished by the end of August.
"Planning and design for a new bridge across the Otara River in Opotiki township is on track too. If that work progresses well, then an opening by the Prime Minister just after the election is likely", according to project manager John Galbraith. He was speaking at a public meeting attended by 25 people at Motu. The $2.5M project which will link Opotiki and Motu is being delivered by the Opotiki and Gisborne District Councils, the Department of Conservation and the Whakatohea Maori Trust Board.
The Motu and Matawai community were told by the National Cycle Trails operations manager Richard Balm that research and experience on the successful Central Otago Rail Trail shows that visitors are happy to pay for well organised services, food and accommodation.
"Cyclists love good coffee and want to eat well. It doesn't need to be Cordon Bleu, good hearty Kiwi food will do it too. And while the accommodation preference is for ensuite bathrooms, the main requirement is for clean and comfortable accommodation.
“Getting the higher end accommodation in place, based on the Otago experience, may take a while. Above all though, the provision of a friendly welcome is key to making the trails a commercial success.
“Visitors want to talk to authentic Kiwis and hang out with them and listen to their stories and history. Given the enthusiasm here tonight and shown at our earlier meeting at Opotiki, the potential to provide all that is certainly there", Mr Balm said.
Motu and Matawai locals Ann Davis and Lilian Sherman suggested that future cycling links between Motu/Matawai and Gisborne through the Whakarau and Te Wera/Wharekopae Roads still be progressed.
Gisborne District Council's environment and policy group manager Hans van Kregten said that a full link between Opotiki and Gisborne was Gisborne District Council's first preference, but central government's criteria that the rides be of shorter links and stay away from standard roads unless they carried very low traffic meant that the longer track would not have qualified for central government funding.
"We had to start somewhere, but if the Trails are a success an extension is possible. And there is nothing to stop operators and accommodation providers from developing products that include routes that complement the Motu Trails."