1000 passengers thrilled by cycleway-ferry service

Sarah Ulmer was one of the first of 1000 people to test Mapua's new "Flat Bottom Fairy" service yesterday.

The Olympic gold medallist attended the official opening of Tasman's Great Taste Trail cycleway ferry, which took visitors and their bikes across the estuary to test the new 6.8-kilometre trail through Rabbit Island to Mapua.

Ulmer, the national cycle-trail ambassador, said it was a fantastic cycle trail and congratulated everybody who was involved with the project, which was a great way to showcase the region.

"You guys have done an incredible job in making this a great place to come."

Ulmer had riden her bike all over he world, but said "there's nothing that comes close to what we have in New Zealand".

The new 12-metre ferry has 15 bike racks and room for 50 passengers and yesterday did 21 return trips, transporting about 1000 passengers. The trail is part of the New Zealand cycle-trail project and is being built in stages.

Rain managed to hold off for the wharf opening which started with the blessing of the ferry by Archdeacon Harvey Ruru when he threw a mug of seawater over the shiny white vessel.

Green Party MP Kevin Hague and Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne also spoke, opening the service which, despite the drizzly weather, was attended by about 200 people, including Labour, Green and National MPs.

Mr Kempthorne said the trail offered amazing estuary riding.

"There is a stunning variety of riding to be enjoyed by people, and everybody is of the expectation it will be a great drawcard for the Nelson Tasman region and a great asset for us all."

Mr Hague said the trail, an initiative between the Green and National parties, was a fantastic way for local and international tourists to see the region. Cycling was not only a way to keep fit and healthy, but great for the environment and the economy because cycle tourists spent a lot of money.

Ngatimoti poet Cliff Fell, a keen cyclist, read out his poem, which has been sandblasted into the concrete benches of the new Mapua Waterfront Park's amphitheatre.

The day also featured a best-dressed fairy competition, which was judged by Ulmer with a little bit of help from her two-year-old daughter, Lily. Entrants comprised adults and children.

Ferry builder and co-owner Paul Nankivell said the ferry transported passengers between 9.30am and 5.30pm, and despite the rain, the numbers were huge. "In the early afternoon, every trip was full, with people on both sides waiting.

"If it had been our usual lovely weather, we might have struggled to cope."

- The Nelson Mail