We just got word via Ground Effect that the Heaphy Track is open for riding in May 2011. The New Zealand Conservation Authority has just approved the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan. That means mountain biking is to be trialled on the Heaphy, Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and the (full) Kill Devil tracks. The season for the Heaphy is May through September; Flora Saddle and Kill Devil are year round. Yippee!! Full details below.
It’s fifteen long years since Kahurangi became a National Park and the Heaphy was off limits to mountain bikes. Many have patiently battled to regain access to New Zealand’s premier multi-day singletrack mountain bike ride:

> Bryce Buckland and Tony Lilleby from Nelson kicked off the crusade back in 1995. In recent years Bryce often mused that progress was so slow that his body might not last the distance.

> Kevin Hague researched, authored and presented Mountain Bike New Zealand’s weighty submission to the pivotal Draft General Policy National Parks. It was a persuasive document as the Policy was subsequently changed in 2006 to allow for mountain bikes on selected tracks. Kevin is now a Green MP, campaigning for all things cycling.

> At Ground Effect we have lived and breathed the Heaphy for longer than we dare admit.

> Sean Barnett, along with Federated Mountain Clubs’ Executive, was instrumental in determining the opinion of their membership, and subsequently supporting seasonal access for bikes on the Heaphy.

> Nelson MP and former Minister of Conservation Nick Smith has publicly lobbied for bikes on the Heaphy since the late 90s.

> Brian Nathan from White Fox and Jones provided legal advice that helped establish the validity of MTBNZ’s position.

> The staff at Nelson/Marlborough DOC who were always open to the notion, and thus allowed for science and pragmatism to prevail.

> And of course 1100 of you made submissions to the General Policy and the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan.

There are plenty out there keen to see the three-year trial fail. Let’s follow the rules and prove them wrong:
> Stick to the winter season – so cool your heels until May next year. Don’t forget Flora Saddle is also an excellent ride that is open right now.
> It’s amazing country and sublime riding so take your time. Fit parties need a couple of days at 6-9 hours riding each day. Overnight at Mackay or Saxon Huts. Hut bookings are essential at bookings.doc.govt.nz
> Don’t hunt in packs – maximum group size is six.
> Avoid heavy rain – DOC may close the track from time to time.
> Keep to the track – no exploring (on bikes).
> No night riding.
> Keep the huts and verandahs bike-free.

And here’s the official MTBNZ Press release:

Mountain Bike New Zealand (MTBNZ) has welcomed today’s decision by the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) to allow winter access for mountain bikes on the Heaphy Track.

Chair of MTBNZ’s Land Access Committee, Guy Wynn-Williams, said:
“We’re delighted. In their comprehensive reviews of the General Policy National Parks and the Kahurangi National Park Management Plan, the NZCA considered the issues thoroughly and objectively, leading to a robust final decision.”

Mr Wynn-Williams went on to say:
“This decision provides a special opportunity to attract a new group of mainly younger Kiwis into our national parks – enabling them to experience our backcountry in a wholesome and self-reliant manner. We anticipate more than 3000 will ride the track next winter.”

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 a diverse landscape and vegetation.

85% of submissions to the Draft Kahurangi National Park Management Plan supported winter mountain biking on the Heaphy. Mr. Wynn-Williams paid particular tribute to New Zealand trampers, who have supported the case for shared-use tracks:
“We are grateful to the Federated Mountain Clubs and numerous local tramping clubs who have supported winter access for bicycles on the Heaphy. Together we have shown that trampers and cross-country mountain bikers share many backcountry values, particularly self-reliance and respect for the wilderness.”

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