The Raglan Mountain Bike Club was riding high this week at the news it has won nearly $48,000 in Government funding to help build its proposed MTB track at Wainui Reserve.
Prime Minister and Tourism Minister John Key has announced the project is one of five nationwide the Government will invest in to help grow the tourism sector.
The taxpayer funding of $47,600 follows a recent Dragons’ Den-style presentation in Wellington where local club members Charlie Young and Dirk De Ruysscher had a high-pressured 10 minutes to present their plan for the MTB park to the Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment (MBIE).
They pointed out how the Ocean Trails Mountain Bike Park – to be built in the Wainui Reserve pine forest overlooking Ngarunui beach – would promote year-round adventure activities in Raglan for both the local community and its international visitors, providing a boost to tourism and good economic returns.
Charlie told the Chronicle on Monday the club was thrilled to have secured the funding. “We were blown away by the news,” he said.
“It shows what can be achieved collectively when like-minded people pull together on a project,” he added proudly. Club volunteers were up against major business players for their slice of the funds, which matches dollar-for-dollar their own fundraising efforts.
The money has come through the Tourism Growth Partnership Fund, which Key describes as a contestable co-investment fund that allows the Government to work in partnership with the tourism industry.
Its $1.1 million investment this time around in five projects – of which the Raglan MTB park is one – brings to $10.5 million the total it has now forked out under the partnership.
The MBIE says the park project – which it describes as a community enterprise supported by the Raglan MTB Club, Raglan Chamber of Commerce, Waikato District Council and Hamilton-Waikato Regional Tourism – will provide nearly seven kilometres of world-class MTB trails, with options for all skill levels from beginners to advanced riders.
It adds that through partnerships with other New Zealand mountain bike parks and inbound tour operators, the park will make a significant contribution to the growth of Raglan’s international visitor market.
“With a primary aim of giving an alternative that appeals to its [Raglan’s] traditional surfing market, the Raglan … MTB park aims to keep visitors in the region for longer, offers opportunities for new business start-ups and wide economic returns,” the MBIE says.
It puts the estimated potential economic benefits to New Zealand at “over $1 million per annum by 2025”.
Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger has also weighed in behind the project, describing the funding announcement by her National Party leader as recognition of Raglan’s tourism value and potential.
“Locals know well the appeal of Raglan, as do the thousands of international tourists who come to the surf beach every year, but Raglan is more than just a surf beach,” she said in a media statement.
“This investment … will help the Raglan Mountain Bike Club promote all year round adventure activities in Raglan.”
Work on the mountain bike park is programmed to start this December.