Cycle trails offer entrepreneurs, communities a good ride

The rollout of the Cycle Trail project is bringing opportunities for commercial property and business owners to benefit from increased tourism numbers.
The Old Coach Road section of the Mountains to Sea cycle trail takes cyclists through a spectacular part of Tongariro National Park (Photo: Visit Ruapehu)

The rollout of the New Zealand Cycle Trail (NZCT) project across New Zealand is bringing opportunities for commercial property and business owners to benefit from increased tourism numbers, both domestic and international. 

Bayleys national commercial property director John Church says the positive spin-offs resulting from the trail initiative to date, and the potential benefits as it kicks into another gear, are revitalising regional economies.

“The NZCT initiative is underpinned by three primary objectives, two of which are specifically business-driven,” Mr Church says.

“The first is to create jobs through the design, construction and maintenance of the cycle network. 

“The second is to create a high-quality tourism asset to enhance New Zealand’s competitiveness as a tourism destination and provide employment and economic development opportunities for regional economies.

“Then the complementary benefits of well-being and community engagement can be considered.” 

Designed to kick-start the construction of a series of great rides across the country, a fund of $50 million was set aside to be rolled out over three years through grants to third parties, with 18 trails initially identified and selected for funding. In addition to this funding, $30 million of co-funding was secured from regional stakeholders toward the construction of these cycle trails. 

To date, the NZCT project has contributed to 19 trails – comprising more than 2500 kilometres of cycling paths, while a further four trails have received approval or approval-in-principle to join the NZCT network.  

Mr Church says a 2014 report from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, New Zealand Cycle Trail Evaluation, took four completed trails as case studies and surveyed trail users and local businesses to ascertain how things were tracking in the first full season of trail operation. 

“The report reinforces that tangible progress has been made in ticking off short- and medium-term objectives,” Mr Church says.

“This includes the creation of jobs associated with the construction of the trails, regional buy-in and investment for the concept, and associated business development as a result of the cycle trail initiative.”

Long-term objectives are ambitious – increased employment and economic development opportunities for regional economies and the national economy, and enhancing the country’s reputation as an international cycle tourism destination. 

Mr Church says Bayleys has marketed and subsequently sold a number of businesses and commercial property offerings around New Zealand that have directly benefited from the cycle trail initiative.

“Hospitality and accommodation businesses in particular have leveraged off the opportunities that increased pedal power via the cycle track network has brought to the regions,” he said.

“One example is a modest café operation in Paeroa sold by Bayleys, which was created as a hobby business for its retirement age owners, who identified a niche business to fuel hungry cyclists passing through the town.

“The new owner could further expand the operation as the trail gains momentum.”

Mr Church said the opening up of previously less accessible areas by way of cycle trails presents opportunity for visionary business people and commercial property investors.

“Out-of-the-box thinking thrives in regional New Zealand where commercial opportunities are concerned.

“The service and hospitality sectors now have a ‘captive’ audience of cyclists visiting regional New Zealand with the prime aim of exploring the area.

“Through innovative marketing and official partnership alignments with the NZCT, year-round businesses can be consolidated. This is giving new energy and life to areas which, in the past, may have otherwise languished.”

In Bayleys’ latest Total Property magazine, Hauraki District Council economic development manager, David Fielden, says the Hauraki Rail Trail has exceeded expectations and as a result, the trail is “smoking the tyres” of businesses along the route. 

“When we first scoped out the trail more than three years ago, we optimistically projected nearly 6000 people would be riding the trails every month,” Mr Fielden says.

“By the end of the first year, we were clocking close to 10,000 riders a month and in January this year, 12,000 riders were recorded as having ridden the Paeroa to Waihi trail. The numbers are blowing us away.”

Mr Fielden claims there is a need for 200 more visitor beds across the Hauraki district.

“We’re desperate for other businesses to seize the opportunity and the council is 100% behind those who have some vision,” he said. 

Ruapehu District Council land transport/economic development manager Warren Furne, says the region’s Mountain to Sea cycle trail has attracted more than 10,000 visitors per year.

“The majority of trail users are what we term ‘hub and spoke’ riders doing day rides from an accommodation base and staying in the region for an average of 2.2 nights,” he said.

“They spend on average $160 a day.”

The Raetihi Holiday Park is one example of an accommodation and service provider, which rates the Mountains to Sea cycle trail initiative as pivotal to the success of its business. The year-round appeal of cycling means that the seasonal peaks and troughs of business traditionally aligned with the winter ski industry in the region have been balanced out.


NZCT’s Network Expansion Project aims to connect the Great Rides with the rest of New Zealand’s cycle ways to spread the economic benefits of cycle tourism to more regions and to further enhance the country’s reputation as a cycle tourism destination.

Jody Robb writes for Bayleys Real Estate