The Whakatāne District Council has supported the submission of a revised business case seeking funding for the extension of the Mōtū Trails Great Ride from Ōpōtiki to Whakatāne.

The ‘Ōpōtiki-Whakatane Coastal Journey’ is a joint venture project between the Ōpōtiki and Whakatāne District Councils and the Mōtū Trails Charitable Trust, with assistance for the development of the revised business case coming from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Great Rides Fund. A report detailing the project was received at last week’s Whakatāne District Council meeting, with a majority of elected members approving its submission to MBIE for consideration.

The business case proposes the construction of a cycle trail from Ōpōtiki, via Ōhiwa and Ōhope (including a proposed ferry service between Ōhiwa and the Ōhope Wharf) to Whakatāne, at an estimated cost of $9 million. If the business case is accepted, MBIE, the NZ Transport Agency and both Councils would contribute to the project cost.

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Whakatāne District Council Places and Open Spaces Manager, Mike Houghton, says that a cost benefit analysis conducted on MBIE’s behalf indicates that the Ōpōtiki-Whakatāne Trail would be used by more than 30,000 riders each year and would generate 75 jobs during the construction phase and more than 90 jobs after 10 years of operation.

“It would also deliver strong economic benefits, with the latest estimates indicating an additional visitor spend of $2.9 million a year by 2030,” he says.

The business case for the project will be submitted for consideration this month and if approved, would be followed by detailed design work and extensive stakeholder consultation, ahead of a phased construction programme westwards from Ōpōtiki between 2021 and 2024.