Nga Haerenga – New Zealand Cycle Trail Project

Dave Conley —  26/05/2010

Preparations are really cranking up for the opening of the first stage in the new Ruapehu – Whanganui trails cycleway.

The Hapuawhenua viaduct, with the old viadict in the background. Photo: Natures Pic/Rob Suisted.

The Hapuawhenua viaduct, with the old viadict in the background. Photo: Natures Pic/Rob Suisted.

DOC staff from around the sheer awesomeness that is Mount Ruapehu, plus a few colleagues from far and wide (cheers Connie and Erana 🙂 ) are furiously planning for what we hope will be one of the peaks of the local calendar. We’ve even managed to encourage Prime Minister John Key to come along, as well as the Minister for Conservation, Kate Wilkinson, so we are looking to have a great day.

DOC staff installing one of the many interpretation pieces to be found on the track.

DOC staff installing one of the many interpretation pieces to be found on the track.

The cycleway is part of Nga Haerenga, the National cycleway project, and is the first of the quick-start projects to open, so we are bigging it up to the local DOC trackies, and their teams who have made it happen. When the first cyclist rubber hits the track, (and by that I mean their tyres not their trousers!) they will love the experience that awaits them. The Ohakune Old Coach Road section of the track will open on July 2, and offers a great family ride back through one of the most significant sites in the history of the New Zealand railway. That’s not to say it’s only for the train-spotters either, everyone can enjoy the scenery, stories and sounds of Southern Ruapehu.

One of the tunnels on the trail which can be explored by visitors.

One of the tunnels on the trail which can be explored by visitors.

It’s going to be a huge community day, so come and celebrate with us. Bring your bike and your lycra and get on it!


Dave Conley


I work for the Department as a Public Awareness officer, and love to bike and fish and hunt and generally get out and about in the awesomeness that is our public space. Spoilt for choice in the Central North Island, thats for sure!

5 responses to Nga Haerenga – New Zealand Cycle Trail Project


    Following advice that the newly opened Old Coach cycle trail was a good option when ski fields were closed, I hired some bikes in Ohakune for my 11 year old son and myself.

    I was stunned by how bad the trail conditions were, and that the Prime Minister would use his trail to commerate that the building of the national cycle way had commenced. Access starts from Ohakune via a couple of km of public road (no obvious cycleway here, there seemed to be some sort of muddy track marked next to the road, but it wasn’t suitable for cycling). The trail starting from a car park was a steady uphill climb in grass and several large sections were covered in deep mud; Hardly a suitable cycleway for a family outing. As the trail approached the viaducts, a proper metal surface had been laid, but this was often quite tight for a bicycle and not wide enough for sharing with large groups of walkers we encountered.

    If this is being held up as a flagship for the national cycle way, then the project is a farce. Is the cycleway not intended for year round use? Cycleways not only need to be built, but they also need to be maintained to a decent standard.


      Hi Marty

      Thanks for your feedback, I can appreciate how the current conditions on the Old Coach Road provided for a tough experience for you and your son. Without wishing to make excuses, I would like to point out we have had a horrendous end to winter and the start of spring, with huge amounts of rain meaning the surface of the trail has been badly cut up. This has also prevented us working on the trail over this period, and clearly this is impacting on the enjoyment of people using the trail, which is disappointing for us. With all the best intention in the world, unfortunately the weather has the power to show us who is boss!

      As you correctly point out, the Prime Minister attended a celebration of the opening of the trail in early July to commemorate the work the community has put in to making the trail a reality, and we are positive the trail will be a huge asset to the local community in time.

      Once the weather allows for the final surfacing of the trail to be completed, and some drying can take place, we are really confident the trail will provide exactly the type of experience you are after.

      There are a couple of features of the trail which you say made the experience worse for you, in particular the grass surface and sharing the trail with walkers.

      The grass surface is in place over the existing cobblestones of the track, and is left there to protect the cobblestone surface in recognition of the historic classification of the original road. Ordinarily it would provide a good riding surface, but with the unusual amount of rain this is clearly not the case at the moment, and that’s unfortunate.

      The tracks off the trail to the Hapuawhenua viaduct and other features have been built to a regulation DOC standard width of 1.2 metres, and so riders and walkers need to take care when sharing the trail, given it is a dual use trail. Your feedback is really valuable in helping us understand issues for users, and may provide for changes over time if other users share your view.

      Once again, I am disappointed for you that the ride wasn’t the experience you were looking for, and I can assure you we will be doing our best to work on those things we are able to influence. We really want this ride to be as enjoyable as possible, and it is frustrating for us that we are finding the going hard this spring. Hopefully you will give it a go again and find it to be a much more enjoyable experience next time!

      Dave Conley
      Community Relations Officer
      Tongariro-Taupo Conservancy


        we have ridden the trail twice and have the same views as marty , when will the surface be finished to a standaed that can be ridden on in all weather.


        Thanks for the feedback. While we are doing our best to provide the best possible experience for riders, this again highlights the balancing act we have between trying to provide a track surface which is suitable for bike riding, without interfering with the historic fabric of the Old Coach Road, which comes under the protection of the Historic Places Trust. In some areas the track surface is on the Old Coach Road itself, and while it is a very good surface in dry weather, it will become muddy after rain. While the track is still ride-able, it may be a little more wet and muddy than people expect to see, but its historic status does not allow us to make improvements to the surface. It is part of the character of the track, and will remain this way.

        On other areas of the track along the skyline section, there is a little more drainage to be installed, which will further improve the track surface, but muddy and damp surfaces will still remain after rain.


    I don’t cycle but I love long walks. This one will be on my list of excursions next summer for sure.