Dunedin could become a world-class cycling destination, writes Dunedin City Councilor Rachel Elder.
Imagine if Dunedin had a cycle route so exciting, so dramatic and so compelling that people all over the world would want to ride it. A world-class destination.
With spectacular falls, dark tunnels and towering viaducts, the Taieri Gorge from Hindon to Pukerangi could be part of such a trip.
With landscapes reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings with its steep hills, rocky outcrops and steep river valleys, the trail takes you on a journey of wild and rugged beauty.
The trail itself has many secrets and stories to tell those who walk its winding paths.
To top it off, this ride has a gentle incline and wide turns, making it accessible and passable for the vast majority of people, especially with the advent of e-bikes.
The big bonus is that Dunedinians could ride it for free all year round.
The new Dunstan Lake Trail is a great example of the power of attraction of a spectacular hike. Located in a similar setting and featuring an exciting overhanging bike path with dramatic elevation changes, this trail records 62,000 visits from cyclists and pedestrians in its first nine months of operation.
The economic impact is estimated between 10 and 12 million dollars during its first year of operation. This, during a confinement, and few visits from Auckland and no international visitors.
Before the lockdown, more than 83% of cycle lane users were New Zealanders. For a growing number of people, the e-bike is allowing them to experience New Zealand outdoor adventures they could only dream of before – and they love it.
No more obstacles related to mobility problems, the need to be in top shape, the fear of steep slopes and headwinds. Here to Stay is a whole new way to travel, so close to nature that you can feel it, slow enough that you can stop and breathe it in, and gentle enough that you won’t wake up paralyzed in pain.
The Alps to Ocean Trail is 300 km long and its economic benefit to the Waitaki and MacKenzie region is over $27 million per year and growing every year. It has been named one of the top 50 destinations in the world.
With plans to link Queenstown to the Dunstan Trail, the Queenstown to Dunedin Trail would be around 300km long and would draw tens of thousands of cyclists through central Otago to Dunedin, creating similar economic benefits for the region. , Middlemarch being one of the biggest single recipients.
The bonus for Dunedin is that many would stay at least one night and explore our beautiful Harborside cycle routes, mountain bike trails and many historic and wildlife attractions. Cyclists stay longer and spend more than your average tourist, between $260 and $300 per day. In theory, if the trails brought 40,000 cyclists a year to Dunedin for one night, the minimum spend would be $10.4 million or $20.8 million for two-night stays.
Even better, by creating a bike path, we are creating a free asset for the people of Dunedin to explore and have adventures. This is sustainable low-carbon domestic tourism. It is also a product that increases people’s physical and mental well-being and connects them to nature and the outdoors.
Could we have two iconic attractions – Dunedin Railways excursion trains in the Seasider/Taieri Gorge and a world class cycle route connecting to the Central Otago Rail Trail and a Coastal Walk that connects to Oamaru?
We have decisions to make about an asset that belongs to all the residents of Dunedin: the Taieri Gorge Railway.
We love our iconic train journey through the Taieri Gorge – which only goes as far as Hindon.
Could we build a cycle path up the river from Outram Glen to Hindon, then over the spectacular railway line from Hindon to Pukerangi and then to Middlemarch, connecting to the Central Otago Railway Trail? A world-class cycling attraction that would bring economic gain and jobs to Dunedin and all rural towns in central Otago?
These are tough questions but they are the ones we need to consider as a city.
The world and the way people want to see the world are changing. We need to make good long-term decisions that will benefit our children, youth, families, and individuals of all abilities, ages, cultures, and socio-economic backgrounds. Create a city where people want to visit, study, work and play.
We need good data and information on the economy and growing trends to help us make sound decisions about an incredible asset that belongs to the people of Dunedin.