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New bridges opened to improve access to Heaphy Track

New bridges opened to improve access to Heaphy Track

Three new road bridges on the Collingwood Bainham Main Road costing $630,000 were opened this morning by Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith to provide all-weather access to the Heaphy Track.

“These new bridges are required on the access road to the Heaphy Track to support all-weather access as part of the Government’s decision this year to allow permanent winter mountain biking. It will enhance safety and improve the reliability of access,” Dr Smith says.

The existing three fords have caused problems for people accessing the track in winter during flood events, with people either being trapped or taking unacceptable risks in crossing the fords. Farmers, residents and the Golden Bay Community Board had become concerned at the number of people regularly becoming stranded and the pressures this was putting on locals to provide emergency shelter.

“It is unusual for the Department of Conservation (DOC) to provide funding for bridges on council roads but this is a pragmatic response by the Government to a real issue for the Collingwood community. This investment is needed to support the expanded use of the Heaphy Track for mountain biking in winter,” Dr Smith says.

These new road bridges are part of a major programme of investment in improved facilities on the Heaphy Track that includes new huts at the mouth of the Heaphy River, at Perry Saddle and at James Mackay, as well as improved tracks and four new track suspension bridges.

After the storms of Easter weekend, the Heaphy Track is now open from the Karamea end to Lewis Hut, but remains closed between Lewis Hut and Brown Hut at the Golden Bay end. DOC is currently working to clear the storm damage and anticipates that this part of the Heaphy Track is unlikely to open before 12 May.

Earlier this year, Dr Smith announced winter mountain biking on the Heaphy Track would continue following a successful three-year trial.

“The Heaphy Track is considered to be New Zealand’s ultimate multi-day single track ride and an average of 2000 people biked the track each year during the winter season mountain biking trial. Once the track re-opens, mountain bikers will have permanent access to this wonderful opportunity each winter season between 1 May and 30 September,” Dr Smith says.

“These upgrades to the Heaphy Track and the decision to allow winter mountain biking are about enabling more people to get out and enjoy New Zealand’s great outdoors, but they are also about supporting rural economic development. The Karamea and Collingwood visitor industries are expected to benefit by $3 million per year from allowing winter mountain biking. This economic activity in what has otherwise been the off-season improves the viability of these small rural businesses. It has also resulted in new private investment such as the new 35-bed Zatori Retreat I opened yesterday in Collingwood.

“I am hugely excited about the tourism potential of the upgraded Heaphy Track facilities. In time, it will become one of the iconic activities in the Nelson and West Coast regions alongside activities such as kayaking in the Abel Tasman.”

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