Cycle trail gets keen support
An earlier start date and the council’s proposed cycleway route were supported by a crowd of 50 at a public meeting on April 16.
Te Aroha Business Association chairman Shaun O’Neill said it would be ‘‘criminal’’ to not utilise the great tourism boom that Hobbiton has caused in Matamata as soon as possible.
The council is suggesting developing the Te Aroha to Matamata link over two financial years ( 2018- 2019 and 2019-2020).
Mayor Jan Barnes agreed that ‘‘everyone wants to hook into Hobbiton’’.
Manager of Matamata’s Public Relations Association Sue Whiting said in its first 10 years of operation, Hobbiton had created millions for the region.
Whiting quoted the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment estimation that total international tourism spending in the Matamata district has more than tripled from $11 million in 2009 to $37 million in 2014 as a result of its Hobbit related attractions.
‘‘We want to continue that, we want to make sure we are growing and that our cafes and bars are still full,’’ she said.
Whiting said the council’s route, which goes through Manawaru via Stanley Rd and then Manawaru Rd and Tower Rd, would be the best way to ensure that.
O’Neill believed the construction process could be done in three to four months.
Derek Lugton, who organised the meeting, had initially wanted a different route that would incorporate various historical sites and tourist attractions like the Wairere Falls in the trail.
The council’s route would showcase the historical Stanley Landing and the Firth Tower Museum. This route was also cheaper and quicker to build than Lugton’s suggestion.
Lugton said signs along the trail could point out the other historical sites.
He also said all the significant sites could be promoted through a pamphlet.
Jo Carling, a road safety adviser for the Waikato Regional Council, suggested that ‘‘spines’’ that lead off to those historical sites could be added at a later date, as has been done with other trails around the Waikato.
Lugton had been concerned that the council’s route would be boring for cyclists, but O’Neill felt Matamata residents needed to see the rural landscape with new eyes.
Most of the cyclists who would use the trail would be from Auckland and would have never seen a cow or the manicured hedges that were staples of the Waikato countryside.
Lugton was happy with the audience turnout.
The meeting did not touch on funding.
Lugton said he had just wanted to gauge support and to work out the preferred route and timeframe.
Many of the crowd afterwards signed a petition calling for the trail construction to start this year and to run from Matamata to Te Aroha via Manawaru.