Publish date: 22/10/2019

A proposed cycle trail from Christchurch to Waipara could add $17m per annum to the North Canterbury economy, according to a viability study.

Enterprise North Canterbury (ENC) has developed and funded a commercial, technical and market demand business case to identify the viability of the 140km ‘Wheels to Waipara’ trail which will start in central Christchurch and follow a number of off-road trails and scenic loop tracks to reach Waipara. The multi-day trail will use the Waimakariri Bridge clip-on, due to open in June 2020, as well as a number of existing cycle trails in the Waimakariri and Hurunui districts. However, an additional 51km of new trail would need to be established to link existing trails together and complete the full route to Waipara.

ENC Chief Executive Heather Warwick says funding will be needed for that remaining stretch.

“ENC intends to put an application into the Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) to help build the 51km of new trail. The business case is now complete and it really stacks up. We already have the support of local track owners so we will be looking to the government via the PGF for their help. With a return of $17m per annum to the North Canterbury community and businesses, this trail will be a key economic initiative for the region for a one-off $2m investment by the Government (if successful).

ENC along with Kaiapoi Promotions Association (KPA) also approached the Waimakariri District Council (WDC) requesting an investment in an alternative route from the Waimakariri Bridge into Kaiapoi aimed at recreational cyclists.

The current route approved by Council is designed largely for commuters and follows Main North Road into Williams Street. The recreational route proposed by ENC and KPA will utilise the Waimakariri Regional Park and Kaiapoi stop bank. Whilst the commuter route is more direct, Heather points out that it is not ideal for recreational riders.

“The recreational route we are proposing is a more scenic option with no road crossings, aimed at the weekend cyclists or recreational riders which will include families and all-age cyclists. The business case ENC commissioned showed that by 2023, 153,000 recreational cyclists will be using the Waimakariri Bridge clip-on route into Kaiapoi every year, compared to 27,000 commuter cyclists. That is why we are asking the Waimakariri District Council to come to the party with some funding for this key addition.” 

With WDC recently agreeing to consider the recreational route’s funding in their 2020/2021 annual plan, the focus for ENC will now be on applying to the PGF for funding for the 51km of new trail to complete the Wheels to Waipara route.

“Across New Zealand, cycle trails are shown to effectively attract new visitors who stay longer and support local businesses,” says Heather.  

“We are very excited at the prospect of receiving funding for this trail that would connect the South Island’s largest city with Canterbury’s premier wine region, showcasing the beauty and diversity of the North Canterbury region along the way.”