Phil Rossiter, chairman of the Mokihinui-Lyell Backcountry Trust
At 85km, the Old Ghost Road from Lyell to Seddonville in the Buller region, is the country’s longest single track, and last December it was finally opened for trampers and bikers. Its development was a monumental feat, given the terrain, remoteness, the number of volunteers (more than 400), the need to build four new huts, and all on a budget of less than $6m.
Phil Rossiter, who was as central to proceedings as anyone, says it had been a phenomenal ride. “So many people put their heart and soul into this, which was entirely necessary for getting over the line.
“My role was just continuity – it’s about the bloody heroes who were out there day in, day out in the snow and the sleet, the hundreds of volunteers, the people working behind the scenes, where to stop?”
Phil says the location meant logistics were rarely straightforward: “Logistically, putting a single track into the middle of nowhere was enormous. You can’t just hire a six tonne digger; you need so much forethought in regards to tools, skills, people. Nothing but the most committed and tenacious people can get stuck in and make it work.”
Phil believes being entrusted by DOC to undertake such a task kept the team motivated during the seven-year project. “DOC gave us the privilege of taking it on. This made us live up to our responsibility and give it back in spades. It drove us.”
The key ingredient, Phil says, for anyone wishing to launch a similar project, is love. “Make sure you love what you’re going to be doing. You’re going to need every bit of love to drive the project forward or it’ll fast become an unloved chore destined to fall short.”
Phil also warns against getting too emotionally involved or you can become close minded and defensive when others make suggestions. “We’ve always felt a huge sense of ownership, but we have to remember it’s not ours; we’re doing it for New Zealand and it needs to be carried on the shoulders of as many as possible.”
Though the trail is now open, the Trust’s work is far from complete. As well as maintaining the track and facilities, it will now look at the possibility of creating a 160km loop, using a mixture of existing trails, such as Charming Creek Walkway, and new ones, integrating more of the region’s townships.