1 Jun 2018

The Golden Ride

From Country Life, 9:38 pm on 1 June 2018

When the Hauraki Rail Trail opened in 2012, no-one really knew if it would be successful.

Six years on, the trail's hub town Paeroa has a new motel – the first 'new build' in many years – plus new restaurants, cafes and cycle rental businesses.

It's hard to get numbers around how many people ride the Hauraki Rail Trail because it is "porous", says general manager Diane Drummond.

There are a lot of entry and exit points along the 160-kilometre trail, which runs from Kaiaua in the north to Te Aroha in the south and Waihi in the east.

Every year, at least 90,000 people do the day-cycle through the Karangahake Gorge between Waihi and Paeroa, she says.

"The average cyclist that comes through is spending $174 a day ... The return to the community across the network here is tens of millions of dollars."

Later this year the trail – was modelled on the popular Otago Rail Trail – will be linked to another trail coming down from Clevedon, and next year it will go all the way to Matamata.

Aucklanders – like the couple who own cafe and boutique accommodation spot The Refinery – are being lured down to rural Paeroa to work.

Shuttle bus driver Trevor Antonovich says he moved to the town to semi-retire.

"But I saw a business opportunity and being an entrepreneur I thought 'Oh well, I'll have a go at this', and here we are. I'm loving it."

Trevor currently runs one van, next year he'll have two. 

New businesses like his have added dozens of new jobs to the region.

If you're mad enough to want to run in the region rather than cycle, Trail Trilogy runs an event based entirely around the Hauraki Rail Trail.

It includes all the popular running distances (9km - 100km) and this year there's also an event where people can race the historic train from Waikino Station back to Waihi.

Even the town's longest-serving antique dealer, Vivian Leonard, says the rail trail has been good for her business.

"I'm paying for more GST and more tax, so I must be doing better ... World famous for L&P, world famous for the rail trail. It's really impacted on everybody. I don't think there could be one person who could say 'Oh no, I don't think it's done anything for us'."