The Wellington City Council is currently seeking feedback on the Open Spaces Access Plan (aka The Tracks Plan). The plan is what the Council Officers will use as their guide when it comes to managing the track network for the next 10 years.
The Club's Stance In Short
Thanks to all those who turned up to our Drop In Session at the Southern Cross. You can download the slides from that event. TracksPlanPresentation.pdf
Following the event, we did receive some additional clarification from Council Officers that is included in this post.
A Call For Riders To Make Submissions
Submissions by individuals in Council consultations are extremely valuable. The Club will be making a full submission on behalf of our members, but we encourage all members and the wider community to do at least a written submission. If you feel more strongly about a specific issue than the club does, then make that known to the Council. Whilst we have had some small changes made to plan mid term (for example opening up Polhill to MTB), largely the Council and Officers will wait until the plans come up for renewal.
The best way to make a submission is to use the online form at. You can fill it out in 5-10 minutes. Once you have done it, encourage your riding mates to do so as well. Written submissions need to be in by 5pm Wednesday 13 July.
- You don't have to answer every question. Just the ones which you have an opinion on.
- There is a question at the end of the form that you can use to raise ideas that have not been mentioned in the form. The Te Ahumairangi consultation would be something to talk about here.
- Keep it short. Use bullet points. These will make it easier to read. Just state what you would like to see in the plan, with a brief reason why.
- Use your own words. If we get a lot of people copy and pasting what the club says, then those words will have less meaning. In the worst case, they would all get counted as one submission. If you agree with the club, take what we are saying, and try and put it into your own words.
Have A Strong Opinion On A Topic? Make An Oral Submission.
The Council appears to place a high value on oral submissions. Committing to turn up in person has a big impact on them. Councilors respect when an individual takes time out of their day to front up.
Individuals typically get 5 minutes to speak during an oral submission. Organisations like the club, typically get 10 minutes. Oral submissions will be scheduled for the first week of August.
- Do state how important the tracks are to you personally.
If you use them for walking, running, dog walking, or any other use, let them know. Get them to see you as a trail user, rather than just a biker. If access to MTB tracks is part of the reason why you are in Wellington, then say that as well.
- Acknowledge that this is a good plan for MTB. Because it is.
Riding bikes in the town belt is great way of meeting the Council's stated goals of engaging with the local environment and driving healthier communities.
- Stick to your main point.
Keep it to the one or two main points that you want to make. Don't try to hit half a dozen topics, you won't have time.
- This one is up to you, but leave the mud slinging to the haters.
The club has had greater success with taking an inclusive, reasoned and pragmatic approach. You may get scheduled after a hater. We'd suggest that you let them look like an irrational fool rather than attacking them. But it is your submission.
- Leave time for questions.
Councilors like to ask questions. Some of these will be easy, and support your stance (some of the Councilors are very pro mountain biking). Others won't be. So be ready for that. If they ask you something obscure, then it is ok to say I don't know, or I can't answer that, and use it as an opportunity to make your point again.
The Club Committee will make a submission on behalf of the club. The content of this submission is based on the polling of the committee and the reading of the community, in particular club members, by the committee. Where is says "the club" below, please read it as "the committee".
MTB Priority Tracks Outside of Makara Peak
The Council is proposing to change a number of tracks in the Town Belt to MTB Priority. This means the tracks are still dual use, but instead of Walkers having priority, this would shift to Riders. The Club expects that this will require some education of the general public and some good sign-age so that all users are aware of the status of a particular track.
By and large, it makes sense which tracks have been nominated as rider priority. They are mainly tracks that were built by riders for descending. A notable exception that the club would like to see added to this list is Serendipity in Polhill. This is a track that has been designed as a descending MTB track, and there is a good alternative in the same area for use by other trail users.
Near Country / Epic Loops
The plan identifies a number of tracks as priorities for development that would be longer half day to multi day rides in the region. This includes more work on the Skyline track and a new Makara / South Coast loop that would take users from Makara Beach, around the South Coast and wind farm, to link up at Red Rocks. The proposal is for this track to be a multi day tramp. The club hopes that this track will be built to an Intermdiate / Advanced MTB standard, along the lines of a Queen Charlotte or Heaphy. This type of track would be a major asset to sit along side the generally shorter rides.
Adding Paper Roads To The Track Network
The club is supportive of adding paper roads to the network. This will help make it clearer that these are open for use by riders and will again assist with planning longer rides in the region.
Limited E-Bike Access To Track Network
The club is neither for or against Ebikes. This is a divisive issue for our community. As a new technology, there is little genuine research on to the impact of EBikes. IMBA has posted one report on the physical impact to trails (finding was that there was no observed difference between ebikes and bikes).
The club is supportive of the council's plan for restricted access within the track network. We are happy to see that the Council has kept this to either 4wd tracks for climbing and to descending trails, where the imapct of the speed differential between ebikes and normal riders is nullified.
We understand and appreciate that the council is trying to open up off road commuter routes for Ebikes and see this as a positive initiative. Our preference would be to see that Ebike definition is refined to electronic pedal assist, rather than electronic drive independent of pedaling for any bike that is using a track, as opposed to a 4wd track.
THE "Needs A Little Work"
It is great to see that the council is looking to invest in making it easier to find tracks and to make connections between the various areas. However the Council seems to be focusing on digital wayfinding. The club thinks that this money would be better spent on physical signage. Digital wayfinding is already taken care of by crowd sourced initiatives such as Trailforks.com.
We have seen how the roll out of new signs at Makara Peak has improved the user experience and we would like to see better signage in the Town Belt. We appreciate that signage is more expensive to maintain, but our stance is that it is more useful.
THE "We Are Concerned About"
TRACK ASSESSMENT - HoW WILL THIS WORK IN PRACTICE
The club is supportive of having a clear framework for assessing new track works, for either brand new tracks or significant reworks.
The club is also supportive of the goals of Our Natural Capital Plan
. Mountain bikers enjoy recreating in the bush because it is a green space, this is why our club includes planting in our trail building activities, and works closely with ecology groups in our project areas.
Section 5.4 attempts to document how these decisions will be made in principle. We want to have more clarity around how the assessment will be run in practice to ensure that the biodiversity values and recreation values are balanced.
Questions we have are
- who will make the assessments? Council officers or 3rd parties?
- how will biodiversity values be balanced with recreation and community engagement values?
- who makes the final decision? Council officers? Councillors?
TRACK ASSESSMENT - CANOPY GAPS
In section 5.4, plan states that tracks "keep the tree canopy intact and not create canopy gaps - this can be accomplished through good track design".
The club would like to see this wording changed to reflect that track development "keep the tree canopy intact as much as practicable, and should minimse canopy gaps".
The Our Natural Spaces plan already outlines management for canopy gaps. Section 11.24 notes these as high priority areas for revegetation. The same plan called for "evidence based guidelines for trail development" (Implementation Plan Section 1. Protect 1.4.4) to be developed. We want to know if these assessment criteria are the result of these evidence based guidelines.
In both Polhill and Miramar, our experience has been that canopy gaps in the regenerating native forest created track building tend to close in relatively quickly (a few years in the case of the Miramar Trail). These canopy gaps also provide light wells to assist with the planting and growth of our species that can be pushed out by the monoculture of Mahoe and 5 Finger in many areas.
In short, we want to see and be involved with the evidence based guidelines for trail development. We believe this issue of canopy gaps is overstated and would like to see the evidence for this track assessment criteria.
All Decision Making Being Done By Councillors and Not Council Officers
In the plan, where it reads "Council", this means the Mayor and Councillors. Council Officers are those who work for the Council itself, like the Park Rangers and Reserves Team. The Club has a long standing effective relationship with Council Officers. This relationship is works because the Council Officers base their decision making and advice on the content of these plans.
The club accepts that some decisions should be at the Council level. For example we can appreciate that high value spend and issues such as opening up access in closed areas require community consultation and decision making facilitated by the elected officials. However we are concerned that the bulk of day to day decision making around new volunteer built and maintained tracks is being taken off the Officers and put in the hands of Council. The club believes that the Council should focus on creating and approving plans that have clear guidelines around decision making for Council Officers, rather than getting bogged down in day to day operational decisions.
The "JUST PLAIN Missing"
Extending MTB Access in Te Ahumairangi / Tinakori Hill
Te Ahumairangi is currently closed to riding, with the exception of a small number of tracks that have limited value to riders. In particular is the ridgeline track that descends down from the top of the hill to the Scout Hall. These tracks are essentially 4wd tracks, and represent the old school of mountain biking. They tend to be steep, fast, and dangerous in that they are also used by other trail users to climb to the top of the hill.
In previous consultations (Capital Spaces and Town Belt Management Plan), the Club has called for a consultation to be run on Te Ahumairangi. The hill represents a large area containing significant exotic and regrowth native bush, which according to the Council's own plans, makes it a candidate for track development as opposed to remanent native forest. The area is not designated as an ecologically significant site in the current "Our Natural Capital" plan. The area to the north of the CBD lacks the short rides close to communities, which is another stated goal of this Council Plan.
The club is not proposing to turn the area into a mountain bike park. What we would like to see is the area opened up to riding as per other areas of the Town Belt, such as Karori, Wright's Hill, Polhill, Mt Albert, Mt Victoria and Cenntinal Reserve in Miramar. The council's existing Town Belt management plans contains the needed provisions to manage trail building, as a restricted activity.
As we have shown with our recent work on Mt Victoria, we believe that we can address any perceived or actual concerns about trail user conflict by making changes where MTB trails intersect and cross existing walking tracks.
At the least we would like to see the Council open up access to some existing tracks that the club has identifed low impact to other trail users. We would encourage to Council to start a consultation process on Te Ahumairangi and give the entire community the oppurtunity to contribute to this discussion.
Descending Track As An Alternative To Upper Transient
If you enjoy riding on these tracks, there are two things you can do:
- Join the Club.
More members helps us when making our own submissions. It gives them more weight. If you are a member, make sure you renew.
- Make a submission.
Take an hour, scan the documents, they are fairly easy to read. Don't be put off by the length of the document, there is a lot of white space and maps. Make a written submission, and if you are able to, make an oral submission. You can do it all online - http://wellington.govt.nz/have-your-say/public-inputs/consultations/open/open-space-access-plan
This is your chance to have your say on tracks, take it!