by Julie Norris
The Taupo Cycling Summit is a forum initiated by the Taupo District Council and Bike Taupo. Held on 20 September, it was a chance for organisations with an interest in cycling in the Taupo district to get to know each other by explaining who they are, their current situation, potential growth opportunities, and their vision for cycling in Taupo. Representatives from the Taupo District Council, Destination Great Lake Taupo, the New Zealand Cycle Trail, Bike Taupo Advocacy Group, Department of Conservation, Contact Lake Taupo Cycle Challenge, Dirt Jump Bike Club, Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust, and the Taupo Cycling Club spoke to those present at the Summit.
Mark Gibson (Bike Taupo) spoke about the advocacy role of Bike Taupo, and also about the trail building and maintenance work carried out by the group. Bike Taupo has built and maintains 180 km of trails around Taupo. This includes the Great Lake Trail part of the New Zealand Cycle trail, comprising of 80 kilometres around the beautiful shores of the Lake Taupo. This trail is expected to entice many visitors to the area.
Terry Slee (Department of Conservation) talked about how policy changes are altering how conservation resources are managed, with a particular focus on the formation of partnerships to encourage investment, as well as creating economic and employment benefits. Erana Stevens (also from Department of Conservation) waxed lyrical about the historic Pureora Timber Trail, which joins two old logging tramways in the Pureora Forest that run south towards Ongarue. This trail is a real gem of the Taupo region.
Donna Jarden (Destination Great Lake Taupo) spoke about the value of cycling in attracting more visitors to Taupo. She appealed for feedback from biking organisations so that their collective wisdom can contribute to the region's marketing plan.
Joe Simpson (Dirt Jump Bike Club) enthusiastically presented the club's goal of building a dirt jump park and trials track at Spa Park. This facility would particularly cater to the younger generation looking for some fun. Funding needed!
Paul McArdle, the chairperson and founder of the Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust, travelled up to Taupo from Hawkes Bay to share his knowledge with participants. The Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust is an organisation that seeks to encourage school children to cycle and have fun on bikes by building bike tracks in schools and equipping them with bikes and safety gear that can be used by the children every school day within a safe environment. He not only spoke of the economic and health benefits of getting kids on bikes, but how we could work towards improving the commuter cycling culture in our region, a grassroots way to build our region as a cycling destination. Setting the culture locally becomes a very visual demonstration to visitors of how cycling is embraced in our region.
The speakers were followed by an open discussion with a panel made up of five of the speakers, who were joined by special guest Sarah Ulmer. Key points from the discussion included the need to cater for the 60+ age group, the fact that getting children back on bikes will take time, the value of volunteers in keeping down the costs of track maintenance, the importance of safety, and the need for a network of cycle lanes throughout the district.
Forum participants were invited to give their feedback on the Summit by filling in an online survey. The results of this survey were summarised, and the results circulated. Common themes or issues mentioned by the respondents were road safety, funding for trail maintenance and development, marketing, the need for collaboration amongst district agencies and the cycling fraternity, events and destination management, and the economic benefits that cycling brings to the district. A Cycling Project Team was formed to review the feedback and to develop a set of actions in response.
There have been some solid outcomes from the Summit, which will lead to improvement and promotion of the Taupo district as an exciting cycling destination. The organisers would like to make the forum an annual event and build on the success of this Summit. The cohesion and collaboration of our diverse cycling community has shown that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.