FROM THE FRONT PAGE
trial to see how it goes, until we get through the strategy,’’ Davidson said.
Despite opposing the application, Davidson said the Rapleys should be commended for following the process.
‘‘We know there’s a couple of commercial operators who don’t have permission – and they are using Sticky Forest, which is a huge concern to us.
‘‘There is a risk that could be shut down,’’ Davidson said.
Bike tracks in Sticky Forest/The Plantation are partly on privately owned land and partly on land administered by the Office of Treaty Settlements.
Upper Clutha Tracks network co-ordinator Ruth Harrison said there was no clear council process for granting commercial licences to use public tracks in Wanaka.
The network wanted to establish how many people the tracks could cope with and there was a call for the Outlet Track to be walking only.
Other tracks were suited for bike only, such as Deans Bank, where walkers understood they went there at their own peril, Harrison said.
Issues also included maintenance costs associated with commercial users and the impact of increased visitor use in the peak summer season, she said.
‘‘All this should come together in the strategy. There is quite a bit of pressure for this work to be done and to hurry it along somewhat . . . ‘‘This (network of tracks) is a highly valued community asset . . . locals really, really value what they have and their main concern is not being able to use it in the future,’’ Harrison said.
Dickson said the track from Glendhu Bay to Albert Town varied in difficulty, with the urban section prone to congestion.
Cyclists should use the road in the urban area and the Outlet Track was a ‘‘particularly inappropriate place for platoons of cyclists’’, he said.
Dickson was not opposed to guided cycle tours on remote sections of the network, such as Albert Town to Luggate or Hawea, or Waterfall Creek to Glendhu Bay.
Dickson and Nugent both said safety was an issue on the narrow Outlet Track.
Dickson’s wife was admitted to hospital with a dislocated shoulder recently, after falling while moving aside for a cyclist. Nugent knew of a cyclist who broke both ankles after colliding with another cyclist.
Nugent is an independent hearings commissioner who has decided cycle track issues in other districts.
He said the Outlet Track would only meet grade 3 in the tourism industry’s design criteria for tracks ‘‘at best’’.
Upgrading (widening) the Outlet Track to meet tourism standards for guided touring might not be possible because of the narrow terrain and steep banks, he said.
Beau Rapley said he appreciated the safety issues and his plans had been audited under the new adventure tourism regulations.
After listening to Dickson’s submissions about pressure in urban areas, he would be ‘‘more than happy to modify’’.
However, he still wanted to guide tourists down the Outlet Track, because it was beautiful.
‘‘The Outlet, to the average Joe Blogs, is a technical track so I would be very careful who I take on that track,’’ he said.
Tours would not exceed 10 people, and there would be two guides, so the tour could be split into two groups of five people and one guide.
Although he applied for up to two tours a day, that was in line with the DOC concessions he has already obtained and it was unlikely he would actually take two tours a day, he said.
Rapley said he was targeting the top end of the tourism market and was not a taxi service for cyclists.
He was already organising fully guided outdoor tours around for small groups of four or five people ‘‘off private jets’’.
The clients’ ability to handle Wanaka’s unformed tracks would be assessed by professional mountainbike guides.
The panel’s decision was reserved.