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Construction Starts on Kawarau Gorge Trail

Official Ceremony Begins the Kawarau Gorge Trail Journey

Breaking ground on the new Kawarau Gorge Trail
Geoff Marks

The planned route of the new Kawarau Gorge Trail.

Turning the ‘first turf’ for the trail was Member of Parliament for Southland, Joseph Mooney supported by Glyn Lewers, Mayor of Queenstown Lake District Council and Tim Cadogan, Central Otago District Mayor.

The task of transforming the spectacular terrain into a cycle trail has been awarded to two contractors; Ellis Mining Ltd have been awarded construction of the suspension bridges & structures with Wilson Keen Contracting managing the earthworks.  Project management is provided Southern Land.

Construction will proceed at full throttle from early January 2024, and it is expected the construction phase will take two years.

Southern Lakes Trails Chair, Aaron Halstead is delighted to see the construction commence.  “The Kawarau Gorge Trail has been years in the planning and to see it come to fruition is fantastic”.

“We are grateful to the landowners who we’ve worked with over these years to grant us access for the development and building of the trail”, adds Aaron.

Guests included not only landowners but trails funding partners; NZ Government, Central Lakes Trust and Otago Community Trust and other supporting parties such as Waka Kotahi – NZ Transport Agency, the Department of Conservation, and nearby tourism authorities.  

The Kawarau Gorge Trail is a pivotal component of a game-changing project that connects the five Great Rides in the Otago region, creating a 530km of continuous trail network across Queenstown, Central Otago and connecting through to Waihola near Dunedin.

(L-R) Joseph Mooney, MP with Tim Cadogan, Central Otago Mayor & Glyn Lewers, Mayor of Queenstown Lake District Council.


The new trail will be a significant exercise in engineering, with bridges and cantilevered walkways required to negotiate the steep cliffs and bluffs of the gorge. Expertise and lessons learned from the construction of the Lake Dunstan Trail which had equally challenging terrain will be crucial in the new trail's construction.

Other exciting trail features will include:

  • Two 92m long suspension bridges across the Kawarau River.  One is close to the site where the first punt across the river started operating in 1866 at the Waitiri Peninsula.
  • A new underpass near Oxbow Adventure Co. and the build around Nevis Bluff which will be taken on by NZTA/Waka Kotahi.
  • Recently discovered moa bones on the trail route will be preserved and displayed with interpretation panels.
  • Historic gold miner's huts and infrastructure.
  • Ecological sanctuary for lizards and other native biodiversity.

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