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An Operator’s View: Middle Hill’s Genevieve King

11 Oct 2019  By Contributor

Genevieve King

Recently opened Middle Hill Mountain Bike Park’s co-owner, Genevieve King, on the launch of the park’s network of downhill trails, earthquake tourism opportunities, future plans to offer accommodation, hiking, parasailing shuttles and collaboration with nearby Clarence River Rafting.


Middle Hill Mountain Bike Park has been a passion project that my partner, experienced trail builder Morgan Rigby, and I have been working hard on with a core crew of local friends and mountain bike enthusiasts – the Middle Hill Shredders Association – for over a year.

Together we’ve built a network of intermediate to advanced, predominantly downhill, mountain bike trails on my family’s farm near Clarence, about 40kms north of Kaikoura.

Morgan Rigby gets some air. Image: Roy Schott

Middle Hill Mountain Bike Park is targeted towards the domestic market with adventurous intermediate to advanced mountain bikers being the main market. We plan to see how the first year goes and then possibly expand our marketing to reach international visitors.

We are focused on attracting adventurous mountain bikers and offering them shuttle services up to the top of the hillside which offers 450 metres of vertical descent. We don’t offer rentals or coaching at this stage – we’re focused on providing a quiet, chilled atmosphere for established mountain bikers with beers in the Woolshed afterwards with a relaxed Kiwi vibe.

The Middle Hill farmland terrain, devastated and uplifted by 12 metres in some places by the Kaikoura earthquake, lends itself to more challenging trails. The fault line ripped through the farmland destroying every single building on the farm, but in one fortuitous instance opened up a large crack where I’d previously been building a track – my work had been further designed and developed by a natural disaster!

Since the massive impact the earthquake had on us, we’ve had three years of rebuilding with lots of help from so many people. We’ve looked into earthquake tourism opportunities and had a coach tour of people who came to look at, and learn about, the massive uplift on the farm.

The mountain biking park wouldn’t be here without the earthquake, it’s funny how these things eventuate – it provided opportunities. After the quake, I won the contract to cook for 30 roadworkers who were living in Clarence. This work enabled Morgan and I to buy a digger and begin working on developing the mountain bike park.

We have designed and developed a range of machine built top-to-bottom intermediate trails as well as more advanced hand-built technical trails. Our network has tracks suitable for all levels of experience; we have six tracks completed so far with quite a few more in the pipeline.

We haven’t set hard and fast targets for the mountain biking operation – it’s very early days. We have not received any funding but that might be something we look at to increase the trail network for future.

We have multiple future business expansion plans to offer shuttles to paragliders, open up hiking opportunities and we’re looking at offering accommodation. We will also be collaborating with nearby Clarence River Rafting, working with them to offer visitors multiple experiences close by and encouraging them to stay longer. We want to keep the park niche – offering personalised experiences to groups of between 4-20 people at a time.

We anticipate our main challenges will be the weather. We’re on one side of a creek that occasionally floods so there may be a few days where we can’t operate but that’s the same with any adventure operation. And although we’re not near a main centre, we’re near enough for Nelson, Christchurch and Wellington mountain bikers to get to us.

I have previous tourism industry experience having worked in the ski industry, as a rafting guide with Clarence River Rafting and in hospitality – all of which have provided valuable skills that are well suited to the park.

Our marketing is primarily via our website, Facebook, Instagram and mostly word of mouth at this early stage of operation. Before we opened the park to the public last weekend, we hosted a successful industry day and invited pro riders, media and shop owners to come and experience the park and the media exposure from that was expansive.

The pricing we have established is based on similar mountain biking experiences. Although we do position ourselves as a boutique operation, offering unique and personal experiences, we wanted to ensure our pricing was affordable and competitive. Many people have compared our experience to the Wairoa Gorge Mountain Biking Park, and our pricing is similar.

Our dealings with the tourism industry are just beginning but one thing I’d like to see change within the industry as a whole is the implementation of an arrivals fee for people who intend to freedom camp. Living on the Kaikoura coast there are not enough public toilets and that causes a lot of problems. I think it’s great that there is so much access to the outdoors in New Zealand, but I think we should be charging on arrival to help out with the huge costs associated.


If you’d like to contribute to our An Operator’s View column, contact the Ticker’s Jane King at jane@tourismticker.com.

 


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