Taupo-Turangi bike trail plan
Article from Taupo Times 13 November 2015 – by Matt Shand
An ambitious plan to build a 60km bike trail connecting Taupo and Turangi could mean big money for both towns if it gets the green light.
The project proposed by Destination Great Lake Taupo (Damian Coutts), Go Tongariro (Christine Dally) and Bike Taupo (Rowan Sapsford) aims to make Taupo towns a destination for cyclists of all skill levels in the same way the Otago Central Rail Trail has revitalised South Island towns along the route.
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After considering the rapid development and increasing popularity of so many successful tourist mountain bike trails throughout NZ, it is quite surprising that this T2T trail has not already been completed years ago.
At last the good people at Destination Great Lake Taupo – “DGLT” – the Taupo Council’s tourism promotion team lead by Damian Coutts – have realised the dream of many. DGLT have commissioned a feasibility Report on the T2T (Taupo to Turangi) bike trail to sort out the exact route, cost benefits, etc. for Government funding purposes.
It is interesting that nearly all of the other bike trails completed around the Taupo-Turangi-Tongariro central plateau region are, or were, the inspiration and ideas from local bike clubs and not from the tourist operators. This is not intended to criticise any of the clubs – like Bike Taupo – as their tracks and results have been simply outstanding Full marks to them.
However most of the trails were designed and built by keen fit bike club members to create challenging routes where their members wanted to test their biking skills and improve their fitness for endurance events, etc. They are too tough for tourist novices.
There is nothing at all wrong with that except the original Government funding (Nga Haerenga) for bike trails was supposed to be directed towards encouraging tourism – particularly aimed at the more remote or marginally economic locations that were missing out on many benefits from the tourism bubble – like the Republic of Turangi?
But as tourism is the biggest employer and most important industry in this Taupo region, there is demand for a full one day bike trail more suitable for the broad range of tourists of all ages and abilities, rather than physically testing routes largely restricted to keen fit mountain bikers or bike club members.
The latest locally being the Timber Trail leading from a popular tourist hot spot to another tourist mecca –
Benneydale to Ongarue?
i.e. The target market, domestic and international tourists, would be lucky to find either and then there is always the other difficult logistical issues – transport problems to get bikes back to the start, affordable bikers accommodation etc.
DOC invested more than $5 million on this 80 km multi-day Timber Trail mountain bike ride in a remote wilderness.. Despite those misgivings it attracted over 6.500 riders over the past year. Comparatively this T2T proposal following SH 1 should attract ten times as many visitors. Which brings us on to DOC.
Throughout NZ, DOC currently has over 1600 km of tracks for bikers with 19 of the 23 Great Rides developed as part of Nga Haerenga on public conservation land.
DOC is also the manager and primary developer of four of these bike trails including the central North Island Timber Trail, and three in the South Island being Queen Charlotte Trail, St. James Cycle Trail and Otago Central Rail trail.
DOC also opened the Heaphy Trail for seasonal mountain biking last year after a three year trial. The Heaphy Trail is visited by more than 10,000 walkers each year. It has been improved over recent years with over $4 million spent on track upgrades, three hut replacements and other bike friendly facilities such as bike washing stations and widening bridges for bikers.
The daddy of all NZ’s bike trails, the Otago Rail Trail, has attracted more than 20,000 annual visitors for each of the past seven years with about 40% traveling to Clyde from the North Island. The Otago Rail Trail provided the specification for many others to follow. So TRM are surprised that DOC have not been more involved financially, as compared to many of the other tracks, the commercial success of T2T is a no-brainer.
The T2T is a natural fit for DOC as it would link their other bike tracks to tourist destinations such as the TRT (Tongariro River Trail) to their Trout Centre Trout Farm located to the south of Turangi and Huka Falls to the north of Taupo.
The feedback from TRM guests indicates the demand from wannabe bikers is for softer ‘tourist friendly’ trails like the popular TRT (Tongariro River Trail) managed by DOC – suitable for all tourists’ fitness and ability levels and ages with a popular feature or theme. Excellent local precedents include the beginner trails along both sides of the Waikato River – the Rotary Ride, Redwoods Track and the Aratiatia Damn Ride and now a trail along the shoreline of beautiful Lake Taupo to top them all. Wonderful news.
DGLT investment to date is for a comprehensive feasibility study which should be completed by end of April 2016. So we suspect DOC are just waiting for confirmation of a positive feasibility study to be paid for by local ratepayers – organised by DGLT – before they invest. Very smart. For DOC this T2T would become the jewel in the crown.
The T2T track construction beyond Waitahanui could commence as early as next Summer. About nine km of the trail is already formed known as Lions Walk, from Taupo via 5 Mile Bay to Waitahanui so it is largely an extension south along the lake edge and following the general route of SH1 through a number of attractive small holiday and retirement settlements such as Hatepe, Motutere, Waitetoko, Te Rangiita, Oruatua, and Motuoapa. This T2T trail will have massive economic benefits to these villages and to Turangi.
The route crosses over several rivers including the Waitahanui, Hinemaiaia, Tauranga-Taupo, Waimarino, Waiotaka Rivers so most of these will require the construction or addition of bike bridges. The swamp land closer to Turangi will need to negotiate over wet areas and may require board walks.
So a total budget of about $6 million is envisaged. NZTA (New Zealand Transport Authority) will inevitably also be involved with funding to upgrade the bridges on SH 1 for better pedestrian and bike access.
Some of the many other bike trails and wilderness walking tracks in this region include:
2 Full day – 42nd Traverse (SH47 on Tongariro National Park to Owhango),
3 Half day – W2K (Whakaipo Bay to Kinloch),
4 Two day – Timber Trail (Benneydale to Ongarue),
5 Half Day – Kawakawa Bay to Kinloch, (Taupo),
7 Full day – Fishers Track (National Park via Bridge to Nowhere to Wanganui River – return to Pipiriki via boat),
8 Half Day – Tongariro River Trail (loop track along the Tongariro River in Turangi).
So everyone in Turangi is celebrating DGLT’s latest initiative to develop a scenic tourist bike trail to link Taupo to Turangi. TRM predict this will knock the socks of so many other bike trails in NZ.