E-bikes will soon be whirring along new shared-use tracks in Tongariro National Park after the Conservation Authority approved a change to the park plan.
Amendments made to the park plan also allowed for three new shared-use tracks, and possibly a fourth track which would finally complete the Round the Mountain Track.
The new tracks include a trail from Waitonga Falls, below Turoa ski field, through to Ohakune; an 11km loop track from Ohakune Mountain Road to Horopito; and a 600m section of track that completes a trail from Horopito to National Park village.
A fourth track, which would link the Round the Mountain Track via Turoa ski field, has also been proposed. Currently, completing the track requires 3.5km of road walking.
The new plan means e-bikes will now be treated the same as mountain bikes in the park. Previously, e-bikes were classed as a motorised vehicle and prohibited. The use of e-bikes would be monitored and reported on annually and could be excluded in future if issues arose.
The tracks have been proposed by a group called Te Ara Mangawhero, representing local community groups, iwi, Ruapehu District Council and DOC. The project was expected to cost $4.9m and funded by local government, Ruapehu District Council and other grants. DOC wouldn’t provide any funding for the project.
Construction of the new tracks is expected to take nearly two-and-a-half years, but further work and consents are required before work can begin.
During consultation, Federated Mountain Clubs and the Auckland and Taupo tramping clubs raised concerns about the shared-use tracks and e-bikes. FMC said steep shared-use tracks would be ‘a recipe for disaster’ and such use should only be permitted on flatter trails.
To appease them, the plan required the relatively flat trails to be developed first.