The Otago Central Rail Trail (OCRT) is the cycle trail model that the Government sought to build on as an ideal example of job and business creation. In 2009, PM and Minister of Tourism John Key, called a job summit in order to seek new areas of growth as New Zealand sank into the mire of the 2007-2008 Global Financial Crisis. An initial concept to build a continuous cycle trail from North Cape to Bluff was thankfully replaced with a call for new cycleways ideas – to be funded by a spare $50,000,000 found in a dusty back room at Parliament house. From that call, 18 trails were selected and part funded, bringing in the engagement of Local Government and dedicated volunteers who sought to replicate what the Otago Central Rail Trail had developed into.
Back at the end of last century (that’s the 1990s, not the 1890s) the railway line from Dunedin up to Middlemarch was revived to move heavy machinery up to the building site of the Clyde Dam. Once that job was completed, NZ Rail announced it was closing the line. Farmers throughout the region expected to take over the railway land that crossed their farms, but to their dismay and consternation, DOC announced their wish to pursue alternate use for this land, announcing that they would develop a walkway/cycleway on the now-cleared line.
The outrage was noisy and heated throughout the Maniototo Basin, a region that was gradually facing major decline and depopulation, visible in the many small towns of the region through declining school rolls, increased vacancy signs and a deterioration of buildings through lack of love and attention.
To read this and other articles on the NZ Today website please click here to sign up for a membership. Once a member and logged in, you'll be able to read all the articles on the site.