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Queenstown cycleway opens amid opposition doubts

Published: 7:11PM Friday October 19, 2012 Source: ONE News

The opening of a key section of the Government's national cycle trail has reignited debate over the project.

The 110 kilometre Queenstown trail cost more than $5 million, including $2 million of Government money, but the Labour opposition claims it's money that could be better spent.

As the flagship to the National Cycleway Project, the Queenstown section provides a gateway to some of New Zealand's most beautiful scenery.

"I think the real issue here is what sort of legacy asset it will be," Prime Minister John Key said. "There'll be 18 trails around New Zealand - they'll be magnificent and not just a good opportunity for New Zealanders to enjoy our great country, but also tourists."

The brainchild of the 2009 Jobs Summit, the Government pledged $50 million towards the national trail, claiming it would create 4000 jobs - 500 of those directly.

"I think it's 882 or 822 at this point, so we've done a little bit better than that," says Key.

But the opposition says the Government has its priorities wrong and it should be focusing on NZ's faltering manufacturing sector.

"We don't think there's anything wrong, in principle, with the cycleways," says Labour's economic spokesman David Cunliffe. "But we're not going to pretend that they are the answer to an economy that is going nowhere."

However Key said the blueprint Otago Central Rail Trail, which has been in operation for a number of years, has led to a number of businesses "that have organically grown out of that".

Backers of the Queenstown trail say it will also make cyclists safer by creating a fully off-road route from Queenstown to Arrowtown.

And for Olympic cycling great Sarah Ulmer, getting more Kiwis on bikes can only be a good thing.

"It's going to provide inspiration for people to get on bikes, realise what an amazing sport it is, get out and active, and enjoy the outdoors," the former Olympic gold medallist and national cycleway ambassador said.

"It's just a winner."