Conservation Management Strategies (CMS) are approved by the New Zealand Conservation Authority (NZCA) under the Conservation Act and provide direction for the management of public conservation land, waters, and species for which the Department of Conservation (DOC) has responsibility.
The Otago CMS was approved in 2016, listing where bicycle trails were allowed on public conservation land (PCL) in the region. This was mostly a list of existing trails.
By 2019 DOC was receiving multiple new proposals to construct cycleways and bicycle tracks on PCL not listed in the Otago CMS, meaning the proposals could not be formally considered.
“The partial review was undertaken because the Otago CMS did not reflect the increased public interest in expanding mountain biking or the opportunities for this activity,” says DOC Statutory Manager, John Roberts.
“Development of the draft was undertaken in consultation with Ngāi Tahu and the Otago Conservation Board. Public consultation attracted close to 1,750 submissions in December 2020. Hearings were held in April 2021, with a revised draft going the NZCA in October 2021.”
As the community’s voice in conservation management for the Otago region, the Otago Conservation Board plays a key role in the development and implementation of the Otago CMS.
“The outcome of the partial review approval is the opening up of an extra 112 parcels of public conservation land able to be considered for bicycle track proposals, along with most marginal strips and DOC administered recreation reserves in Otago,” says Tara Druce of the Otago Conservation Board.
New proposals will be assessed according to the new provisions of the Otago CMS, to ensure they uphold conservation and recreation values, including engagement with Ngāi Tahu, and consultation with the Otago Conservation Board.
“NZCA’s approval of the Otago CMS partial review is fantastic news, as it offers the potential for people to have new bicycling experiences in scenic settings that are already naturally suited to this activity,” says Tara Druce.
The partial review was approved at the NZCA’s 16 June meeting, and it becomes operative on 1 July 2022.