Has four complaints over two years and $5,000 spent on fences, signs and dismantling structures meant the end of the MTB tracks on Tinakori?
From December 2015 Wellington Council have been actively addressing the issues of illegal mountain bike tracks on Te Ahumairangi Hill aka Tinakori, in response to complaints about riders.
Rightly or wrongly bikers have been riding unsanctioned trails on Tinakori hill since the late 1990s, mainly owing to its step gradient, making trails technically advanced and its close proximity from town.
The big question is why, after years of general tolerance of this situation did Wellington Council suddenly take action.
Complaints to blame?
Information given to NZenduro by Wellington Council shows that from 2014 to 2016 Wellington Council received four complaints from residents about cyclists on the Hill.
Of the four complaints lodged, one was regarding cyclists destroying native plants by making illegal tracks, two were requesting warning signs for walkers and for cyclists to slow down and one was asking whether the tracks were illegal.
Of the four complaints two were lodged in 2014 and two in 2015 a rate of two complaints per year.
The Council has stated in a recent official information request that it responded to the complaints they received by implementing the following actions:
- Fencing of known trail heads,
- Erecting signage at illegal trail heads,
- Dismantling structures on illegal trails.
Contrary to believes held by some mountain bikers the council has ‘NOT located CCTV cameras on Te Ahumairangi Hill‘.
The total cost of these actions was $5,085, or $1,271 per complaint.
To put this into perspective, rates for a typical house in Wellington are $2,000 a year. So more than half of the rates for each person who complained went on actions to stop illegal riders. Good value for money?
Two further complaints were received in regards to illegal track signs being vandalised (not necessarily by cyclists) as a result of the actions above.
To put the number of complaints in perspective, for dog walkers it is a local by-law, punishable by a fine, for them to pick up their dogs poo. In 2010 alone there were 210 complaints about dog poo on pavement.
So, the big question is why would the Council respond to such a small number of complaints in such an aggressive manner?
On the basis of the number of complaints received I would argue that the users of Tinakori Hill are not that too concerned about mountain bikers, albeit they would like to see safer tracks on there.
Certainly the four complaints in two years should not have been a reason to close them. It is more likely that the closures are down to individuals at the Council flexing their muscles to prove a point, make an example and to use this as cannon fodder for not building new ones.
Unfortunately for us mountain bikers status quo bias means that it’s easier and cheaper to close tracks than actually work with us to sanction them.
We will have to work extremely hard and all together as a collective if we ever want to see legitimate riding on Tinakori.