"Save Manapouri" campaigner Sir Alan Mark opened the ceremonial gate to the latest leg of the Lake2Lake Cycle Trail on Sunday. PHOTO: Claire Kaplan
The Fiordland Trails Trust is setting its sights on building a multi-use trail from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs, and discussions have begun to see if the project is the right candidate for the Provincial Growth Fund.
The trust ticked off another milestone on Sunday with the opening of the latest 4.7km-leg of its multi-use Lake2Lake trail connecting Manapouri to Supply Bay. Around a hundred walkers and cyclists of all ages came out to the chilly day in Manapouri, with "Save Manapouri" campaigner Sir Alan Mark opening the ceremonial gate to the new trail section.
Now the trust is looking to see if central government can help chip in for its next big project to create a similar trail from Te Anau to Te Anau Downs.
Trust chairman Dr Stephen Hoskin said the trust recently sent in an expression of interest for the Provincial Growth Fund for the Te Anau Downs project, which was roughly estimated to cost $2.5 million.
Dr Hoskin said at Sunday's opening that the trust had received $1 million to date for its popular multi-use trail connecting Te Anau to Manapouri, three-quarters of which has come from within Southland.
While the trust had received generous support from the community, Dr Hoskin said would be huge to have central government support for the trail's next big project.
"They just want to see that it fits in strategically with the region," he said.
In addition to Provincial Growth Fund, the trust has also submitted to the Southland District Council Long Term Plan for funding towards the Te Anau Downs project.
In the past getting funding from higher up has proven elusive.
Previous trust chairman David Prendergast said the trust was discouraged from applying for former Prime Minister John Key's $50 million cycle trail funding initiative by then Southland District Council Mayor Frana Cardno and council staff, so as to not compete for funding for the Around the Mountains Cycle Trail.
Mr Prendergast said, however, that the district council had been supportive of the project, having funded its feasibility study for example.
Dr Hoskin said the trust had also been previously advised by Venture Southland that it was ineligible for the Tourism Growth Partnership, which closed last May.
Completing the entire Lake2Lake trail as planned still hangs on a a 2-km section of the planned trail that passes through Fiordland National Park. In the Fiordland National Park Management Plan, cycling is not allowed in the park.
Dr Hoskin said the trust wrote to Department of Conservation in February to see if it could proceed with constructing the final section of the Lake2Lake trail before the park plan review was completed. He said the trust was waiting a response.
In the meantime the existing Lake2Lake trail's counters seem to show strong use. More than 43,000 users passed between the trail's start in Te Anau to DOC's bird sanctuary over the first 12 months of monitoring.
From May 2017 to the end of April 2018, more than 7300 users passed between the trail's most remote section from Queen's Reach and Rainbow Reach.