That Rotorua is a mecca for mountain biking is beyond doubt: the parking area at Waipa is often overflowing on a sunny weekend. The fabulous trail network in Whakarewarewa Forest is the envy of cities all over Australasia, and SPARC’s activity participation report (available on their website) shows that cycling is one of New Zealand’s biggest recreational pursuits. Mountain biking is already delivering a massive economic return to Rotorua, shown by three surveys conducted since 2006, each outstripping the one before it by a wide margin.
With Rotorua plugged in to direct trans-Tasman flights, groups of Australians are starting to come for mountain biking weekends, much as ski holidays have attracted them to the South Island’s resorts.
Cities all over Australasia do not just envy Rotorua, they are creating steps to create their own versions of the Rotorua formula. Some are aiming at the visiting mountain biker because they understand the value in getting these people into town.
For example, Queenstown have been hard at work over the last year developing a better mountain biking offering for their city. This summer they are opening a gondola accessed downhill trail system designed to provide downhill runs for everybody, from the beginner through to the experienced downhiller. A lot like the variety of trails we have from the top of Moerangi. They have developed two cross country trail systems about half an hour by bike trails along the lake from town. Much like the trails close to town we can access via the Town Link Track. They have two well – developed dirt jump areas with council funding, on council land.
That is the pattern for many centres hoping to get bike riders in for a visit.
The good news for Rotorua is that moves are already underway which will keep our town up with the leaders in the race to attract cyclists: the Te Ara o Ahi (Pathway of Fire) Bike Trail is in the final planning stages, and will offer tourists a fascinating ride through a variety of thermal scenery. The skills area planned for Longmile Road will cater for dirt – jump enthusiasts. The outlook is good for continued development of trails in the forest, and council-supported developments around the Waipa carpark area are exciting (toilets would be nice!). We have the potential to create one of the world’s great multi day mountain bike rides around the fabulous forests and lakes near Rotorua, but that is a project which would require a lot of good will from a lot of parties.
The existing facilities, planned developments that are underway, and things that could be developed in the future are an exciting platform to make the city’s chances of retaining its mountain biking crown good as ever. And the support all these things get from the city will be as important as anything else in making them happen.
ARTICLE BY GAZ FOR ROTORUA DAILY POST 210210