heaphyThe Heaphy Track is reckoned by many to be the best long distance singletrack ride in New Zealand. And the Department of Conservation has just (as in today) released its Draft Partial Review of the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan. The Plan proposes to trial seasonal access for mountain bikes on the Heaphy from 1 May to 1 October each year, and general access for mountain bikes on the Kill Devil and Flora Saddle–Barron Flat tracks.
This is great news and the ‘rules of engagement’ detailed in the plan are consistent with what Mountain Bike NZ has lobbied for over the past 15 years.

There is wide spread support for this change. In 2005 the New Zealand Conservation Authority changed the General Policy for National Parks to allow for mountain bike access on selected tracks in National Parks. This decision was backed by an overwhelming majority of submissions. Of the 1305 received, 1106 supported the change while just 22 opposed. Support came from organisations with a wide variety of interests including many Conservation Boards and tramping clubs. Support included:
•    Federated Mountain Clubs
•    SPARC
•    the Nelson/Marlborough, West Coast, Waikato and Southland Conservation Boards
•    the Tasman, Buller and Nelson Councils
•    the Golden Bay, Motueka and Waimea Tramping Clubs
•    NZ Alpine Club
•    and Mountain Bike NZ.

The Cycleway Project led by our Prime Minister and vocal support for bikes on the Heaphy from Nelson MP Nick Smith all add political clout. But there are plenty of individuals and groups who oppose the change. So it’s vital that mountain bikers and others who support seasonal access to the Heaphy make submissions in quantity and quality.

Pedal on

Guy Wynn-Williams and Bryce Buckland
MTBNZ Land Access


1.    Write a submission
If you have the time and confidence, a personal submission is the most powerful way of influencing the outcome.
Some important points to support in your submission are:
•    Section 4.1.A  “Mountain Biking” in the Draft Partial Review of the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan, allowing mountain biking on the Heaphy, Kill Devil and Flora Saddle-Barron Flat tracks.
•    The 1 May to 1 October season for mountain biking the Heaphy.
•    General access for mountain biking the Kill Devil and Flora Saddle-Barron Flat tracks.
•    Adherence to the Mountain Bikers’ Code.
•    The preclusion of heli-biking.
•    And the other ‘Implementations’ detailed in section 4.1.A.12
Most importantly you should indicate your support for the position being taken by Mountain Bike NZ.

2.    Send a’ Form Submission’
If you can’t, or don’t want to write a submission in your own words, there’s a ‘form submission’ attached at the end of this document that you can just sign and send.  Weight of numbers alone won’t win this one, but it sure helps.

3.    Get your friends and relations to write submissions
Mountain biking networks can be a bit loose, so it’s important to get the word out and motivate the cynics and chronically disorganised. Don’t just stop at mountain biking friends, clubs and businesses. Ours is a cause that most reasonable people will support when they consider the evidence, and the opinions of people who don’t mountain bike can count for a lot. The opinions of conservationists and trampers are especially important.

Send your submission to:
Kahurangi National Park Management Plan Partial Plan
Department of Conservation
Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042

Or e-mail to: kahurangi@doc.govt.nz

Closing date is Friday 4 September 2009

Declare your enthusiasm for Section 4.1.A “Mountain Biking” in the Draft Partial Review of the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan.

The Heaphy is a unique multi-day backcountry ride that has no equal in New Zealand—82km of singletrack traversing from coast to coast through diverse landscapes and vegetation. It is to mountain bikers what the Milford Track is to walkers.

The potential for conflict between trampers and bikers on the Heaphy is minimised through the proposed May to October season—with less than 20% of the current visitors walking the track during that off-peak period.

There are good sight-distances and the trail is sufficiently technical to ensure low speeds on most sections. Potential for conflict is further reduced by limiting group size to six riders or less; the promotion of responsible riding through the Mountain Bikers’ Code; and precluding heli-biking on the track.

The Heaphy’s track surface is robust making it durable to the impacts of both boots and tyres. The proposed winter season records lower rainfall than the spring and early summer when wet, nor-west weather conditions often prevail.

The minority of walkers that still prefer to avoid cyclists can do so easily given the proposed season and the large number of other (walking-only) tracks available within Kahurangi and throughout the country.

Although technically challenging the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat track has in the past been a popular day ride for experienced, fit riders. The Kill Devil is both physically and technically demanding. It is unlikely to ever be a popular ride but is nonetheless rewarding for the few with the fitness and skills to tackle it.

The Draft Plan’s provision for allowing mountain biking on the Heaphy, Kill Devil and Flora Saddle-Barron Flat tracks provides a special opportunity to attract new (mainly younger) users into Kahurangi National Park and enable them to experience our backcountry in a wholesome, self-reliant manner.

Check out the full press release here.

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