Minister of Tourism, Hon. Stuart Nash announced today that Central Otago’s newest cycle trail, the Lake Dunstan Trail, has been awarded Great Ride status, along with the Whakarewarewa Forest Loop trail near Rotorua, taking the number of Great Rides of New Zealand to 23.

“These are the first new cycle trails to be added to the Great Rides network in a decade. The expansion of the trails comes at the perfect time as we reconnect to key international tourism markets, and will be a boost to regional economies,” says Stuart Nash.

“The Lake Dunstan Trail is a fantastic addition to both the Great Rides network and the myriad  of other trails in Central Otago and the lower South Island. It traverses some of the most breathtaking landscapes of the Cromwell Gorge and is a feat of engineering and design brilliance, with suspended boardwalks hanging off rock faces.

“The Great Rides is a recognised brand, and each trail is required to maintain high standards  which are regularly assessed. Joining the network opens the door to new funding, branding, research and marketing opportunities for the cycle trails.

“For example, Great Ride trails are eligible for up to $45,000 per year in operational funding, plus potential support from an annual $1 million contestable fund for enhancements and maintenance, and a separate fund to cover damage from extreme events like storms.

The Lake Dunstan Cycle and Walking Trail, officially opened in May 2021 by Minister Nash, has had over 80,000 people utilise the trail.

Central Otago Queenstown Trail Network Trust (COQTNT) chair, Stephen Jeffery says, “I am delighted with the announcement from the Minister that the trail has been awarded Great Ride status – it is a significant achievement. The trail has been constructed to a very high standard, meeting and in many areas’ surpassing Ngā Haerenga, New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) standards.

“Our Trust committee has been staggered by the trail user numbers. The economic benefits  for Central Otago in the trail’s first year of operation is calculated to be in the millions.”

He says, “Creating another Great Ride in Central Otago would not have been achieved without  significant funding from Central Lakes Trust, Otago Community Trust and the Government.

A tripartite funding agreement between central government ($13.15 million), Central Lakes Trust ($11.15 million) and Otago Community Trust ($2 million) was announced in 2016 to fund the 170km network of trails joining the Great Rides of the region. The Lake Dunstan Trail is the first of five to be completed by COQTNT.

Central Lakes Trust’s chair, Linda Robertson says the vision right from the outset was to create  a world-class and accessible trail network linking the Great Rides in the area.

“Joining of the trail network is a huge initiative, and The Lake Dunstan Trail’s success and indeed its new status, is testament to that vision for our community and to what the entire network will become.

“Cycle trails have experienced a boom in popularity over the past couple of years, with COVID  lockdowns and Kiwis staying on our shores, more have got out on their bikes to experience our beautiful landscapes.

“None more so than the unique Lake Dunstan Trail with its several bluff clip-ons and swingbridges traversing imposing rocky bluffs amongst other stunning features. Add to that the advent of e-bikes making our trails even more accessible and one can begin to understand the numbers through the trail.”

She adds, “The trail provides benefits to residents within the region beyond simply the health and wellbeing of getting out walking and cycling.“

“That the Trust has been able to contribute to this legacy asset for our community is something  we are enormously proud of. We really do look forward to the future benefits and opportunities  joining the entire network will provide.”

Otago Community Trust chair, Diccon Sim said today is a day not only to celebrate the Lake Dunstan Trail achieving Great Ride status, and to pay tribute to the foresight of those who pushed to make this project happen, but to celebrate the benefits that cycle trails create for the communities that surround them.

“This recognition of the Lake Dunstan Trail foreshadows what an incredible regional asset the network will become upon completion of the next stages into Queenstown and Wanaka – projects Otago Community Trust is also proud to have supported.”

COQTNT have completed the first three kilometre part of the link through to the Queenstown Trails via the Kawarau Gorge and the Nevis Bluff, along Bannockburn’s Felton Rd with all its wineries. The remainder of this section of trail has been consented, with detailed design work now underway. The Roxburgh Gorge trail link is also in its detailed design phase. It is expected that work will be able to start on these two projects before the end of this year.

Progress has been made on the trail through to Luggate and towards Wānaka. Final negotiations are underway with landowners and an announcement of the route is planned for  this year.

Exciting opportunities exist for sponsorship of structures and features on these trails.

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