Thursday, 10 January 2019

High Country Lament?

The Great Southern Brevet is unique as it travels across the high country of the lower South Island. This is a spectacular, and sometimes challenging landscape to travel through as past Great Southern Brevets have found.

One aspect which is challenging (other than the weather!) is land access. The GSB is no stranger to controversy here. Our best endeavours to tread carefully have been misinterpreted and misrepresented by many. Misunderstandings do happen but often you would hope logic may prevail once things calm down. That is not always the case.

The Pisa Range has had travelers across it for over 150 years. The Roaring Meg Track was the original route to the 1860's Cardrona Valley Gold Rush. Later the Cromwell-Cardrona Pack Track was used. An unfortunate event with a cyclist and a farm dog meant that the Roaring Meg Track was closed to all a couple of years ago. Without details of the incident there are no judgements to be made here.

However, in the ensuing years there has been much lobbying by walkers to regain access. And with the help of the well funded Walking Access Commission Roaring Meg Track can again be enjoyed on FOOT.

Cyclists beware

The emphasis is on FOOT. Cycling remains prohibited. Without a well funded and well organised group to lobby for cycling access one can assume there will be no future cycling on the track.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) loosely represents recreation interests of New Zealanders when it comes to access to Conservation Land (Editors Note: Roaring Meg Track is not on Conservation Land but on Public Land leased to a station holder). DOC proudly claims to have secured good access to the Pisa Range Conservation Area for recreational users.

For those brave souls who have ventured forth on such DOC access you will know it ranges from unrealistic to atrocious. DOC implement a policy of no maintenance of inherited vehicle tracks on Conservation Areas. Thus what was once a challenging ride, over time becomes a battle with erosion and flora.

Not the most friendly territory for a pneumatic tyre!

So where is this all going? Basically the tracks in certain (most) of the Conservation areas are degrading rapidly. You will see first hand for yourself if you are riding this years GSB. Some areas have now become too difficult to access.

One such area is the crossing of the Pisa Range. With Roaring Meg no longer accessible, both DOC recommended tracks (Queensberry Hill/Rock Peak and Queensberry Spur) were visited this summer. Both are in atrocious condition with severe erosion and damage. Still a good trip for the hardiest of back country cyclists but perhaps not for those on their 3rd or 4th day of a 1100km adventure.

The upside! This may be the easiest GSB so far ;-)

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