Lessons from success of Central Otago Rail Trail
22 February 2003 Media Statement
Many lessons from success of Central Otago Rail Trail
Conservation Minister Chris Carter launched the Department of Conservation’s new national ‘Conservation with Communities’ strategy at Wedderburn in Central Otago today.
Mr Carter was in Central Otago to fire the starting pistol for the annual Central Otago Rail Trail Duathlon, and to celebrate the completion of the second stage of the well-known Wedderburn goods shed restoration project on the trial.
“There are many lessons that the rest of New Zealand can learn from the community initiatives arising from the highly successful Central Otago Rail Trail,” Mr Carter said.
“The enormous task that the Department of Conservation (DOC) has in conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage needs community support.
“The success of the Central Otago Rail Trail, through a partnership between the community and the department, is an excellent example of the kind of community relationship that DOC is aiming for nationally through the Conservation with Communities Strategy.
"The strategy is designed to improve the ability of DOC to work with communities to achieve better conservation outcomes."
Mr Carter said that DOC staff in Otago had been working with the Central Otago Rail Trail Trust since 1993 to replace the old Central Otago railway line from Middlemarch to Clyde (which closed in 1990) with a hiking and biking trail.
"After initial resistance by some local communities to the idea, the Rail Trail now gets 10,000 visitors annually and is one of the major drawcards for recreation activities in the Central Otago region," Mr Carter said.
He said the Rail Trail Trust had raised close to a million dollars to invest in upgrading the viaducts, tunnels and the track itself, and had successfully negotiated with the farming interests whose properties bordered the trail.
“The trail has played a vital role in the restoration and regeneration of the many small, railway-based towns along its length, with many businesses reporting a 25 percent increase in turnover,” said Mr Carter.
“And just as importantly, I understand many local people are looking at their own history and landscapes with renewed regard, because they see it being valued by so many travellers from so far away.
“This initiative shows that conservation can be seen as an ally in the regeneration of a region, through its role in providing recreational opportunities for a whole range of travellers.”
Mr Carter said the Wedderburn goods shed, made famous in artist Grahame Sydney’s 1975 painting, represented the social and economic influence the railway once had on the area.
The shed had undergone two out of the three planned stages of development, which included having it moved from a coal pit back to its original site some 5 kilometres away, he said.
The Wedderburn shed had now been painted back to its instantly recognisable green colour and eventually it would be transformed into a ‘living museum’ to demonstrate the rural history of the area for those travelling on the Rail Trail.