Friends of the A20

Geoff sat down and talked with Adair from Friends of the A20 to find out more about who they are and what they are doing to improve the popular trail.

Can you tell us about the Friends of the A2O?
The Friends of the A2O is a Charitable Trust established to provide the means to raise funds outside of the standard Council entity. Friends of the A2O can apply to various charities and businesses for funds specifically for use on our cycle trail. Companies such as Meridian and Network Waitaki will allocate funds for community projects and we have been successful in applying to these companies and other Trusts such the Lotteries Commission, Otago Community Trust and Trust Aoraki for specific projects they may wish to fund. Often these projects are for specific features such as bridges, seating or interpretation on the trail.

Who is paying for the Alps 2 Ocean trail to be built?  
Trail funding is a complex thing. There is a belief that the Government pays to build the trails, but thats nothing like the complete picture. Funding is split between Central Government and Local Government – as in Councils who are themselves funded by ratepayers. Usually any funding from Central Government requires a 50% co-funding from Councils. Councils can either fund this from their own coffers or we can provide funds we may hold in order to achieve matching funding. So any money we can raise can often be doubled in value through this co-funding. Friends of A20 works closely with both the Waitaki District Council and the Mackenzie District Council, to tap into MBIE grants for maintenance, as well as construction work. We are fortunate to have the financial backing and enthusiasm of both Councils involved in this project.

What is left to be built on the A2O? 
Taking the trail off road instead of riding over the saddle and down into Otematata was a major improvement for the trail. Apart from how spectacular the trail is around the Benmore Dam, riders don’t like riding ‘on-road’. We have identified three key sections that we want to remove from on road. No priority has yet been determined.
1)  Down the eastern side of Lake Pukaki from Mt Cook station to the lakeside trail around the bottom of lake Pukaki. The new trail of approx. 35kms would be off road between the lake and existing road and currently we are working on the consents to start on this at least in part by next season.
2)  From the historic Quailburn woolshed down to the highway is approx. 23kms. We are looking at options to get this off-road so that we continue the amazing cycle started over at lake Ohau.
3)  Now that the trail from Sailors Cutting exits onto Benmore Dam, we want to reconnect with the Otematata community. This section would be approx. 15 kms

Why is the trail still on road in parts after 10 years. Doesn’t the government provide enough funding to build everything?
Funding has always been tight for all the trails. The A2O organisation has done incredibly well with with its limited funds and to date we have spent collectively about $7.5m to produce the 316kms of trail. The three additional sections we need to take off road will cost at least $100/m so thats looking for an additional $7 – $8m to get the key sections off road. Currently approx. 33.5% ( 106kms ) is still on road and on completion of our three key projects, that will drop to about 10%.

What’s on your wish list to yet be added to the trail – and where is that money going to come from?
Building the trail is one thing, but there are many more things we need to do to bring it to live. Interpretation is one of the big areas we have on our agenda because there are so many stories to tell. We are engaging with iwi to identify key stories and locations as well as telling the history of the power schemes down the trail. Thats just one aspect where we can bring value to the trail. How we fund this is a challenge to be addressed and we can’t charge riders. So donations from any source become very important  to us. Last year Cycle Journeys donated approx $33,000 which we can put towards the sort of trail additions that bring real value to the trail.