Benefits of backing walking, cycling
The environmental impact of tourism has become a growing concern for local communities, local government, and even central government. In the May 26 Budget there was new funding to help communities to deal with the pressure created by booming numbers of international visitors.
With this significant growth, and with future projections expecting the annual tourist numbers to equal the total population in a few years, there are important environmentally-friendly tourist opportunities to be seized.
Along with ‘ Kiwitanga’ – the unique Kiwi character and hospitality that is referred to in the Tourism 2025 report – the quality of the environment is a major drawcard for international visitors.
So it is essential to reduce any negative environmental impacts. Cycling, as an environmentally-friendly way of exploring a region, is highlighted in the report as one of the key attractions.
Unlike adjacent Wellington, Hawkes Bay, Taranaki and Waikato, our wider region does not have a regional strategy for promoting our existing and proposed new cycle trails. A regional walking and cycling strategy would provide a muchneeded boost for efforts to promote the unique opportunities for walking and cycling in our region.
It’s great to see enthusiasm for this from local communities. The Bainesse & Districts Community Development Trust is promoting a new city to sea rail trail to connect the existing Palmerston North to Longburn shared path with Himatangi.
However, it’s challenging for a community group to navigate its way through council long-term planning processes and land-transport planning, when the stakeholders of the path and the funding sources require it to work across different organisational boundaries.
Regional walking and cycling strategies would provide guidance and connectivity across the region. Even greater benefits come when the strategy results from a collaborative forum as happened in the Waikato region. This approach gets everyone talking, understanding different perspectives, and finding solutions.
Off road pathways and cycle trails provide more enjoyable and safer cycling experiences.