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The Kepler - Te Anau

01 August 2013

In their draft Conservation Management Strategy, DOC Southland sought suggestions for mountain bike access on sections of the Kepler and Hollyford Tracks. Mountain Bike NZ, Trail Fund NZ and Te Anau Cycling Inc. have made submissions in support of winter access to the Kepler, plus upgrading two connecting pest control tracks to enable a fabulous multi-day figure-8 trip. The submission also includes ideas for mtb trips into the Hollyford and Greenstone/Caples. In the winter off-season, Te Anau could transform itself into a hub for multi-day mountain bike adventures. Stay tuned... 

As of June 2014 DOC have decided to review mountain bike access as part of the scheduled full review of the Park Management Plan in 2017.

The full MTBNZ/Trail Fund NZ Submission...

27 August 2013

CMS Submissions Department of Conservation Private Bag 4715 Christchurch Mail Centre Christchurch 8140

Re: Draft Southland Murihiku Conservation Management Strategy

Thank you for the opportunity to make a submission on the Draft Southland Murihiku Conservation Management Strategy.

This is a joint submission on behalf of Mountain Bike New Zealand (MTBNZ) and Trail Fund NZ. MTBNZ is this country's national association for mountain bikers. It exists to promote recreational and competitive mountain biking in New Zealand. Trail Fund NZ is an allied organisation that focuses on trails advocacy and fund raising to support efforts of local volunteer trail builders.

We are encouraged by the general intent of the Draft CMS to seek out opportunities for mountain biking in the Southland Murihiku area where social conflicts and physical impacts can be managed within reasonable levels.

Specific comments on sections within the plan follow.

1.5.3 More people participate in recreation We agree with the intent of this clause, but have reservations that commercial partnerships may be overly relied upon to deliver on this objective. This presents the risk of diluting the backcountry experience with pressure to respond to customer needs, leading to increasingly luxurious huts, over-developed tracks and structures, and helicopter access into remote areas. In our opinion this incremental urbanisation of the backcountry is not desirable. Overdevelopment of the New Zealand backcountry both compromises DOC's requirement to protect land and natural resources, and puts our long term visitor popularity at risk with a potential reduction in the quality of the experiences for which it is renown. A report on the cumulative effects should be part of any process considering development proposals.

2.2 Proposal to Allow Mountain Biking on Existing and New Tracks in Fiordland National Park. We support the Proposal to Allow Mountain Biking on Existing and New Tracks in Fiordland National Park.

MTBNZ has not previously advocated mountain biking on either the Kepler or Hollyford Tracks, so we make the following comments in response to the Department's call for suggestions as to how mountain biking on these tracks could potentially be managed to keep social conflicts and physical impacts within reasonable levels.

The Department's positive experience with mountain biking on the Poulter, Heaphy and Queen Charlotte Tracks provides good data for assessing the opportunities and potential impacts of the proposal to allow bikes on the Kepler and Hollyford. We always advocate rider education through the Mountain Bikers Code (Appendix 1), developed by MTBNZ in conjunction with DOC.

Attracting additional off-season visitors to Te Anau, and the commercial benefits to the local community, are good reasons to explore options for mountain biking in the area. Low winter rainfall and the robust nature of the tracks, suggest wear and tear is unlikely to be substantially different from that caused by walkers.

Kepler > We do not believe general access for mountain biking on the Kepler Track is appropriate during the November to April season, when classified as a Great Walk. > However, the Department could consider allowing for a recreational mountain bike event to be run twice each year in say November and March. This could be on similar terms to the Kepler Challenge except with a recreational emphasis. Riders would pay an entry fee and complete the ride over one or two days. For safety reasons, with a potentially large number of cyclists participating, the course should be run in an anti clockwise direction only. > We believe winter access for mountain bikes on sections of the Kepler Track from May to October is worth considering: - From the Kepler Track Car Park, past Rainbow Reach Car Park to the Iris Burn Hut. The track is well formed and has good drainage with easy gradients for riders. - In addition, traversing the complete track over Mt Luxmore in May and October only (weather and conditions dependent) is an option. The Mt Luxmore section is mostly rideable by advanced riders. Others may need to walk their bikes for 20-30 minutes. - In all instances the track, or parts thereof, may be closed due to unsuitable weather conditions and/or low level snow. > The Kepler Track experience can be augmented with year round access on existing pest control tracks: Bears Track and the Forest Burn/Harts Hill Track. Our understanding is that these could be upgraded with relatively minor development work. Day ride and over-night options would include ascending to the Luxmore Hut, descending Bears Track, riding Forest Burn/Harts Hill and returning to Te Anau on the Kepler via Rainbow Reach Car Park. > Further consideration should be given to year-round mountain bike access on the Te Anau-Rainbow Reach section. Social conflicts are likely to be minimal given the low numbers of existing users on this section of the track.

Hollyford > We believe that the wide, well-formed track between the Hollyford Trail End and Lake Alabaster would be suitable for the April to November off-season use by mountain bikes. The trip to Martins Bay along the Demons Trail is not technically practical, but riders could leave their bikes and complete the trip on foot or by boat.

Mavora Greenstone Walkway > For more adventurous backcountry riders, provisions could be made for year-round mountain bike access between Mavoroa Lakes and the Greenstone Hut. Seasonal access could then be allowed from the Greenstone to Key Summit and out to the Hollyford Road. > An option for more experienced riders is to bike from Mavora Lakes down the Greenstone Valley, up the Caples Valley, over McKerrow Pass, down the Greenstone Valley and back to Mavoroa Lakes.

Part 3. Power Assisted Cycles We strongly agree with the clauses that differentiate between 'Non-motorised bikes' and 'Power-assisted cycles.'

Table 3.2 Potential mountain biking opportunities in Southland Murihiku. We agree with the potential mountain bike opportunities listed in table 3.2.

We would like to see the South Coast Track to Port Craig added to the list of mountain bike opportunities. The sections along the beach combined with the area's history make it an excellent day or overnight ride.

3.3.9 Should not allow 'thrill seeker' styles of mountain biking where they will result in conflicts with other users, and/or impacts on natural, historic or cultural heritage values. This clause is redundant as these guidelines (rightly) apply to all mountain biking activity within the Conservation Estate. We do believe that clarification and guidelines should be developed to differentiate between: > self-propelled/non-motorised mountain bikers, generally referred to as 'cross-country or 'XC'; and > those who access (mostly) downhill rides using motorised vehicles, ski lifts, helicopters or light aircraft, colloquially referred to as 'shuttling'.

Based on research and the Department's experience on the Poulter, Heaphy and Queen Charlotte tracks, it is generally possible to manage social conflicts and physical impacts within acceptable levels on suitable shared-use tracks.

Lift assisted riders or 'shuttlers' ride heavier, faster downhill bikes. They generally require dedicated tracks, often with challenging man-made technical features. This style of riding is not generally suitable on shared-use tracks. We believe the department needs to be quite explicit on this point when developing air access policies and considering applications for concessions to operate mountain bike activities in backcountry destinations. 'Shuttling' more likely to be suitable in front country destinations such as the Sky line Gondola in Queenstown, and on farm or 4WD tracks rarely accessed by other users. Invariably higher levels of rider safety are advisable including body armour, neck brace, full-face helmet and specific trail design and signage.

Sustainable Trail Design For new and refurbished single and shared-use tracks, we encourage DOC to embrace sustainable trail design, as described in the International Mountain Bike Associations (IMBA) two books 'Trail Solutions' and 'Natural Surface Tracks by Design'.

When compared to traditional track design, sustainable trails: - Are subject to substantially less erosion from rain, and wear and tear from users. Consequently they require less resources spent on repair and maintenance. - Tend to retain natural obstacles rather than being over-groomed, smooth and fast. The intrinsic technical nature of the tracks makes them more interesting/challenging to riders while minimising the potential for social conflict with other uses.

Sustainable trail design is practised by a large number of volunteer track builders around New Zealand, with many examples of their work on the DOC estate. Trail Fund NZ and local Mountain Bike Clubs can help facilitate adoption of the Sustainable Trail Design principles through workshops, provision of literature, input into planning of trail work, and routing of trails. DOC Nelson Lakes Area Office recently hosted a very successful track building workshop. Material was delivered by the Nelson Mountain Bike Club. 25 DOC field staff attended. There was general acknowledgement of the benefits that would be gained from adopting a Sustainable Trail Design approach to new and refurbished trails in the area. This provides a useful template for harnessing the combined expertise of DOC staff, volunteer trail builders and IMBA research.

We would like to be heard in support of this submission. Working hours during the week would be preferable.

Yours faithfully

Guy Wynn-Williams, MTBNZ Land Access Ben Wilde, Trail Fund NZ