Waikato’s Hauraki Rail Trail has been given a leg-up to increase its share of the international cycling market after winning up to $3.4m in government funding.
The investment is being made through the Ngā Haerenga, the New Zealand Cycle Trail Enhancement and Extension Fund and was announced by tourism minister Kelvin Davis on Friday.
It will be matched with funding from the Hauraki District Council, the Matamata-Piako District Council and the Te Aroha Business Association.
As a result, the Hauraki Rail Trail will be extended from Miranda to Kaiaua at one end and from Te Aroha to Matamata at the other.
Davis said that the investment will bring the current 120km of trail up to about 168km, “providing a more attractive multi-day ride that will encourage riders to stay longer in the region.”
He added: “The enhanced trail, which offers access to accommodation, food and beverage and a range of natural attractions, provides an excellent opportunity for business growth and job creation in the northern Waikato.
“There’s potential to develop a bigger international market for the trail.”
Cycling has been identified as an area of special interest by Tourism New Zealand with the potential to drive shoulder season travel, regional dispersal and attract higher value visitors.
According to the agency, nearly 10% – or 138,000 – of all visitors to New Zealand participated in a cycling activity in the last three years.
These visitors stay longer and spend more than the average, with spend coming in at $4,900 compared with $3,900 and an average length of stay of 33 nights compared with 16 nights for all holiday visitors.
Australia is NZ’s largest single international market for cycling on 28% followed by China, on 12% and the Uk and America equal on 10%.
The longer trail, at an easy grade and finished to a world-class standard, is what the Hauraki Rail Trail Charitable Trust had always envisaged, according to Davis.
The statement added that when it’s complete, each section of the trail will show off a different facet of the region – from the rich Māori and goldmining histories to the beauty of the Kaimai Ranges and the Coromandel Peninsula.
Funding also covers a smaller project to install bike racks in Te Aroha created by local artist Adrian Worsley.
Extensions to the trail are expected to take up to two years to complete.
It is the second funding award to be announced through Ngā Haerenga after the Government announced $2.4m towards extending and upgrading the Tasman cycle trail in February.