The popular Ōpua-Kawakawa leg of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail looks likely to reopen following a council rethink on the bike track’s future. Photo / supplied
Cyclists may one day be able to ride the full length of the Twin Coast Cycle Trail again, following a council decision to build a shared pathway along the Ōpua to Taumarere rail corridor “as
soon as possible”.
The unconfirmed decision, made during the public-excluded section of the September 22 Far North District Council meeting, effectively rescues the trail as a coast-to-coast ride accessible to riders of all skill levels.
When fully opened in 2017, the Twin Coast Cycle Trail stretched 85km from Ōpua in the Bay of Islands to Horeke in South Hokianga, making it the only trail in the Ngā Haerenga national cycle trail network to link two coasts.
Parts of the trail, including the popular 11km section between Ōpua and Taumarere, follow disused railway corridors.
That part of the trail is owned by KiwiRail but leased to the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway, which had in turn leased it to the Far North District Council for the cycleway.
However, when work began to restore the railway tracks in late 2021, cyclists were no longer able to ride the full trail.
The council had originally set aside almost $10 million to build a new bike trail alongside the railway but cancelled those plans earlier this year citing a cost blow-out and uncertainty over the lease of the rail corridor.
The council also pulled out of a joint venture called Northern Adventure Experience (NAX), which sought to create a combined bike, stream train and steam ferry experience between Ōpua and Kawakawa.
Instead, in order to preserve the “twin coast” brand, the council decided to spend about $1.5m developing an alternative cycle route from Ōpua to Kawakawa via unsealed Oromahoe and Whangae roads.
While that route is already used by hardened mountain bikers, it was criticised as being unsafe and unsuitable for families or inexperienced riders.
Even Tourism Minister Stuart Nash weighed in, telling the Advocate the most successful bike trails were those that were accessible to riders of all abilities and urging the council “don’t bite the hand that feeds”.
It seems, however, councillors have decided to proceed after all with a shared walking and cycling trail alongside the railway corridor — as well as an alternative, more challenging route via Oromahoe and Whangae roads.
The matter was discussed during the public-excluded section of the September 22 Far North District Council meeting so the details cannot be officially confirmed.
However, the Advocate understands councillors decided to:
• start detailed design and construction of a shared pathway from Ōpua to Taumarere as soon as possible;
• start on an Oromahoe Rd-Whangae Rd trail by December, for route resilience and to provide a full coast-to-coast route while the shared pathway is built;
• allow a shuttle train to operate between Akeake to Taumarere, to keep the Ōpua-Kawakawa section of the trail open for cyclists and walkers during the coming summer;
• negotiate a long-term lease for the shared pathway with KiwiRail and the vintage railway trust;
• appoint a project manager to oversee the work.
A total design and construction budget was set but its value is not known.
The Advocate has applied under the Local Government Official Information and Meetings Act for a copy of the report on which the decisions were based. It is also seeking confirmation of the decisions.