Cy­cle trail gets keen sup­port

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By ABBY BROWN

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.

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