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January 2011 Issue
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Holy Grail of bike rides opens

Photo: Dave Mitchell

Mountain bikers are celebrating the reopening of the Heaphy Track to riders, starting from winter 2011.

The Heaphy will be open to mountain bikers from May 1, but already two other tracks in the park – Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks – have been opened to mountain bikers.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) announced the new access to riders in December after the New Zealand Conservation Authority approved a revised Kahurangi National Park Management Plan which allows mountain biking to be trialled in the park over the next three years.

The draft mountain biking provisions received the most comment in public submissions with 494 referring to it, the majority supporting mountain bike trials on the three tracks.

Mountain Bike New Zealand (MTBNZ) welcomed the decision. “This decision provides a special opportunity to attract a new group of mainly younger kiwis into our national parks – enabling them to experience our backcountry in a wholesome and self-reliant manner,” said Chair of MTBNZ’s Land Access Committee, Guy Wynn-Williams. “We anticipate more than 3000 will ride the track next winter.”

DOC’s Nelson Conservator Neil Clifton said mountain bikers and trampers will need to show consideration for each other on the three tracks.

“This will include assessing impacts on other people’s use and enjoyment of the tracks and mountain bikers’ adherence to the Mountain Bikers Code of Conduct,” Clifton added.

“The Kahurangi National Park Management Plan also contains provisions to protect wildlife and their habitat from mountain biking impacts. Bikes must only be ridden on the formed tracks and are not allowed at night on the Heaphy and Flora Saddle to Barron Flat tracks to protect nocturnal giant Powelliphanta snails and great spotted kiwi.”

The 82km Heaphy Track is a unique multiday backcountry ride that has no equal in New Zealand, said Wynn-Williams, who also paid tribute to trampers who have supported the case for shared-use tracks: “We are grateful to the Federated Mountain Clubs and numerous local tramping clubs who have supported winter access for bicycles on the Heaphy. Together we have shown that trampers and cross-country mountain bikers share many backcountry values, particularly self-reliance and respect for the wilderness.”

Kahurangi National Park mountain biking trials:

  • The mountain biking trials will run on the Heaphy Track between May 1 and September 30 each year and year-round on the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat and Kill Devil tracks. The trials continue until the end of 2013
  • The mountain biking trial on the Heaphy Track has been kept to the winter season when the numbers of trampers on the track are much lower  
  • The number of riders on the track at any one time will be limited by the accommodation capacity of huts and campsites which is managed through a booking system