1. Introduction

1.1 Objectives

This Draft Policy is the result of a Regional Forum on Mountain Biking, carried out in accordance with the Regional Council's 1994/95 Annual Plan. The objectives of this work were:

(1) To convene a regional recreation forum to discuss mountain bike issues.

(2) To develop a policy for mountain biking on Regional Council lands.

(3) To develop proposals for co-ordinated management of mountain biking within the Region for recommendation to territorial authorities and other key agencies within the Region.

1.2 Composition of the Regional Forum on Mountain Biking

The Draft Policy on Mountain Biking was developed by the Recreation Department of the Wellington Regional Council and Strategic Leisure Limited, in association with the Regional Forum on Mountain Biking, convened for this purpose by the Regional Council.

The authors acknowledge the following individuals and thank them for their participation and their ideas, many of which have been adopted into this document.

Participants in the Regional Forum on Mountain Biking:

Mike Edginton Department of Conservation

Gordon Cessford Department of Conservation

Peter Hemsley Wellington City Council

Shani Smith Upper Hutt City Council

Humphry Smith Kapiti Coast District Council

Sharon Jessop Masterton District Council

Sarah Tavenor Porirua City Council

Deon Boonzaier Sams Bike Shop

Arnold Heine Federated Mountain Clubs

Karl du Fresne Independent

Glenn Fitzgerald Bridleways of New Zealand

Trudi Zawodny Women on Mountain Bikes

Peter Ellis Athletics New Zealand

Simon Critchley Hutt Valley Mountain Bike Club

John Baddily Hutt Valley Mountain Bike Club

Bill Milne Hutt Valley Branch -RFBPS

Dave Peebles Hutt Valley Branch -RFBPS

For the most part the people listed were not present in an official representative capacity, nor have the views expressed in this document been endorsed formally by their organisations. Participants were invited for their knowledge and experience, or because of the direct relevance of this project to the areas and functions of their organisations.

The Regional Council has approved the release of this draft Policy for further discussion and invites comment from all interested organisations and individuals.

The authors believe the draft Policy expresses a balanced and realistic approach and hope for wide endorsement of its principles.

Project Team:

Barry Chalmers Manager, Recreation, Wellington Regional Council

David Clelland Recreation Planner, Wellington Regional Council

Fred Smith Managing Director, Strategic Leisure Limited

Chris Knol for Strategic Leisure Limited

Simon Kennett for Strategic Leisure Limited

David Marsh for Strategic Leisure Limited

1.3 Background and Overview

The last decade has seen the phenomenon of mountain biking, or off-road cycling, growing from nothing to a point where it now ranks as the second most popular recreational activity on Regional Council lands. It is second only to walking in this regard.

Mountain bikers generally use the same tracks as walkers and runners, and in some places, horses and off-road vehicles. As an activity mountain biking is characterised by wide geographical scope and wide appeal. Like skiing or wind surfing, it is an active form of leisure though easier to learn and probably cheaper. It is also a means of conveyance along a track or road and complements passive activities such as nature appreciation, and picnicking. Large numbers of people of all ages and both sexes have been discovering the mountain biking potential of the Region and taking to its hills, coasts and river banks.

With a trend of this magnitude, some problems were inevitable. While the problems are well known, they have not been well understood. This draft Policy seeks to get to the facts and dispel unhelpful misconceptions about the impacts of mountain biking on the environment and other track users.

The facts, as they appear from this study, are that some real problems do exist but that there are a number of actions which can be taken to resolve them. In summary:

The impacts of mountain bikes on the natural environment are minimal in most areas.

The impacts of mountain bikes on tracks is significant but in many cases manageable. It cannot be said that mountain bikes have a greater overall impact than other track use.

The "social" impacts of mountain bikes on other track users is the most significant problem, but there are a number of actions which land management agencies and riders can take to help resolve this problem

The danger to other track users is perceived by walkers to be very significant but is not mirrored by records of known incidents. Any areas with significant hazards must nevertheless be identified and managed.

Mountain bikers face significant dangers to themselves, particularly when racing or riding at speed. They are also exposed to the general dangers of outdoor recreation, such as hypothermia.

This draft Policy proposes the use of a number of tools to aid management decisions on mountain bike access and use on Regional Council lands. These include:

(1) A track database. This database has already been partially completed.

(2) A decision making process which provides guidance in the assessment of each track or area for mountain bike use.

(3) An off road code which describes the riding behaviour which is appropriate on the Region's tracks and will be a key element of most information initiatives in mountain bike management.

The tone of the draft Policy is intended to be progressive in that it seeks to make mountain biking an accepted and welcome feature of recreation on appropriate Regional Council lands. Through this policy the Regional Council will:

Foster a partnership with riders whereby they are only restricted when there are clear, demonstrable and valid reasons for doing so, and riders accept greater individual responsibility for their actions.

Foster mutual acceptance and respect between different track users.

Over time, remedy identifiable design inadequacies of existing tracks for use by mountain bikers.

Further develop skills and methods within the Regional Council for the management of multiple-use tracks.

Improve co-ordination and consistency between agencies in the management of mountain biking.

The specific goals and actions which will give effect to these outcomes are contained within the individual sections of this document. (The structure of this document is shown in Figure 1.) All of the implementation actions are, of course, resource dependant and subject to assessment against the Regional Council's Business Plan priorities. The aim is to identify actions which are achievable within a reasonable time frame. With each action there is an indication of who it should involve, i.e., Wellington Regional Council specifically, or all agencies generally.