FOLLOWING the lead of other regions left with holes in their economies, reinventing the Mount Canobolas area as a mountain biking mecca could aid Orange’s recovery post-Electrolux, according to Central West Off-road Bicycle Club president Scott Charlton.
Rotorua in New Zealand, north eastern Tasmania and Mount Buller in Victoria are premier mountain biking destinations after the cities invested in bike trails capitalising on the features of their landscapes.
For Rotorua, the venture has been so successful mountain bike tourism is now worth more than five times that of the timber industry.
Mr Charlton believes Orange, with its similar-sized population and distance from major metropolitan cities, could do the same, creating jobs for at least some of the redundant Electrolux workers.
“[Rotorua] is really well regarded, people fly in internationally,” he said.
“There’s a plane that goes over weekly full of mountain bikers from Australia.”
Mr Charlton concedes establishing mountain biking trails around Orange would take significant investment, however, he believes Orange City Council and Cabonne Council could work together to attract regional development grants from the federal government.
It would follow the lead of north-east Tasmania, which received $2.5 million from the federal government last year and $800,000 from the Tasmanian government’s jobs package to construct 90 kilometres of mountain biking trails.
“From a business perspective people come in for whole weekends to ride the trails,” Mr Charlton said.
He said a business case would need to be established for Orange, but believed the benefits of bike tourism would flow on to restaurants, cafes, bike shops, bike hire businesses, shuttle bus operators and spin-off industries like adventure sports.
“When it comes to the costs, land access is a critical issue, but once that is negotiated, which is cheap, it’s just a matter of building the tracks, which is also relatively cheap,” he said.
Orange’s reputation as a mountain bike destination has already been established, with Kinross State Forest and new trails being built at the former earth sanctuary opposite Lake Canobolas.
But Mr Charlton believes the scale and topography of Mount Canobolas could make it as popular as Rotorua for cyclists.
“The natural areas surrounding Mount Canobolas, managed by the NPWS [National Parks and Wildlife Service], would be an ideal place to construct mountain bike trails; from the teahouse to the summit for example,” he said.
“Likewise, the western areas of the NSW Forest-managed land has limitless possibilities for a purpose built ‘epic’ trail.”
Mr Charlton wants the councils to act now before the forests are replanted when scheduled logging is finished.
In unofficial discussions, NSW Forests representatives have told the club the idea would be feasible as long as income lost from trees displaced by the tracks is offset.