19 Nov 2010
The first of New Zealand’s ‘Great Rides’ – a national cycle trail project showcasing some of the country’s most spectacular cycling destinations – will open tomorrow (20.11.2010).
NZ Minister of Conservation Kate Wilkinson will officially open the St James Cycle Trail, the first fully competed track in the Nga Haerenga – The New Zealand Cycle Trail network.
The new cycle trail passes through an iconic South Island backcountry conservation area, near the tourist town of Hanmer Springs, in Canterbury’s Southern Alps.
The St James Cycle Trail is the third trail to have sections of track available for use, and the first to be completed from start to finish.
The Conservation Department (DOC) had worked incredibly hard to complete the project and the result spoke for itself, Ms Wilkinson said.
”This is a real tourism asset and I have no doubt it will draw thousands of cyclists a year.
”The landscape is stunning and managing these sorts of natural assets is dependent on a good balance between protection and public access.
”This Government wants to get people outside enjoying our amazing country and the opening of the St James Cycle Trail will certainly achieve that.”
The 64km St James Trail offers iconic scenery and a mix of trail standards, down spectacular river valleys, past high-country lakes, through beech forest and grassland valleys.
Of the 18 nationally promoted cycle trails, it requires the greatest level of experience to complete.
Experienced mountain bikers are expected to complete the full trail in roughly 10 hours. There are four huts along the way, providing the opportunity for multi-day expeditions.
”This particular trail will be more challenging than most of the others under this brand, but I believe it fills a gap, catering for our more experienced rider community – which I am sure they will appreciate,” Ms Wilkinson said.
”I can imagine that many cyclists having completed the track would reward themselves with a soak in the Hanmer Springs hot pools on the way home.”
Background: Nga Haerenga, The NZ Cycle Trail
Nga Haerenga – meaning ‘the journeys’ in a physical and spiritual sense – is a New Zealand Government project to develop a national cycleway network.
The New Zealand Cycle Trails are a series of 18 ‘Great Rides’ that will take cyclists through some of New Zealand’s most iconic and picturesque country.
The vision is a series of beautiful, safe trails that will become an enviable, world-class attraction that provides economic, social and environmental benefits for New Zealand communities.
The NZ Government has invested NZ$50 million into the New Zealand Cycle Trail project, and the aim is to have 18 ‘Great Rides’ completed and ready for use by summer 2012 – 2013.
It is envisaged that the ‘Great Rides’ will be progressively linked with other cycling routes and facilities, and will cater for a range of cycling abilities, types and purposes.
The 18 trails are across New Zealand in regions including Northland, Hauraki, Rotorua, Opotiki / Gisborne, Waikato, Ruapehu, Taupo, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson / Tasman, West Coast, Aoraki / Mount Cook / Waitaki, Queenstown, Southland and Clutha.
Once completed the 18 trails are expected to provide more than 2,000km of cycleways.
Background: St James Conservation Area
The NZ Government purchased the St James Station as public conservation land in 2008.
It was purchased to protect its natural, physical and cultural values, and to open it up to outdoor recreation and tourism.
The St James offers a great range of recreation opportunities for a wide range of interests and abilities. There are a number of different tramping routes, including the St James Walkway and part of Te Araroa – a walking trail from Cape Reinga to Bluff.
The conservation area offers a variety of mountain-biking opportunities, including the St James Cycle Trail. Parts of this trail and other tracks in the region are also open to horse riding and 4WD. The Hanmer Springs Ski Area falls within the conservation area.
Local native vegetation includes red, mountain and silver beech / tawhairauriki / tawhairaunui forests, mānuka / kānuka and matagouri scrublands, alpine and tussock species, and a vast expanse of native grasslands. Some 430 indigenous species of flora and 30 native bird species have been identified.
Māori access routes across the top of the South Island ran through the station, and there are a number of early European pastoral farming historic sites including old homesteads, huts, and rabbit fences. The area was one of the largest operating cattle / sheep stations in the country, dating back to 1862.
Background: The St James cycle trail
The 64km cycle trail traverses the St James Conservation Area from north to south between two key access points from Tophouse Road.
The cycleway mainly follows the Waiau River, and the full trip is designed for experienced mountain bikers. The entry tracks to the Waiau River along Edwards valley or over Maling Pass (and to Lake Guyon) are suitable for intermediate level cyclists.
Experienced mountain-bikers are expected to complete the full trail in 10 – 12 hours. The majority would take two days, and either stay in one of several huts accessible for mountain bikers, or camp beside the river.
Of the 18 nationally promoted cycle trails, the St James Cycle Trail requires the greatest levels of experience to complete the full trail.
The new cycle trail will complement existing mountain-biking opportunities around Hanmer Springs. This area is already reputed to be one of the best mountain-biking areas in the country for families. The St James Cycle Trail will add to this reputation, with more adventurous / challenging opportunities for the more experienced cyclist, as well as easier family day trips into the back-country.
These opportunities are well supported with an extensive local infrastructure providing bike hire, organised tours, transport and information services operating from Hanmer Springs. Secondary services include accommodation, restaurants / bars and other tourism drawcards such as the hot pools and spa.
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