NZ's Original Great Ride

Trail Trust

Who we are 

The Otago Central Rail Trail Trust was originally established in 1994 by the Department of Conservation to help it raise funds to convert a disused railway line into a walking and cycling trail.  The Trust consists of 4 volunteer Trustees, link to Trustees a part-time facilitator link to facilitator and administrator link to administrator.

The Trust has gone on from its original purpose of raising initial funding for the trail to having a key role in marketing and promoting it by producing marketing collateral and operating the Official Otago Central Rail Trail website. 

Key Partnerships

A regularly improved experience, the success of the Otago Central Rail Trail is very much an ongoing team effort by the Department of Conservation the Trust, business and community.  Nationally, it was the first significant partnership of a community trust and DOC –which led the way with a number of other collaborations. 

The partnership between the Trust and the Department of Conservation, together with the community and local businesses maximised funding to speed the opening of trail sections within months of the Trust forming. 

Support from other international trail administrators has been heartening with many sharing ideas or seeking advice from the Trust. Recognition of the high regard in which the Otago Central Rail Trail is held.

Visit our Trail Partners

What we do

Governance Body

Traditionally the Trust has been a group of four volunteers, who operate very much as an authority calling on professional resources where and when necessary. Trustees link to Trustees receive no reimbursement or payment for the contribution they make, which averages out at around 15 volunteer hours every week. The Trustees are able to say, hand on heart, that every cent raised goes to enhancing the Rail Trail experience whether this is in the form of on-trail facilities, user research or other necessary activities.

What we’ve assisted with

The Trust raises funds for ongoing enhancements to the trail having invested over $2 million in a range of projects. These include trailside environmental toilets, 11 replica gangers' sheds, information panels inside these sheds, a number of trailside information panels, topographic outline panels in three places along the trail, and road crossing signs. This in addition to 'Gibson Grate' cattle grates where farm boundary gates are across the trail. These were developed by and named after former Trustee, and now Patron John Gibson. Considerable funding has gone towards surface upgrading.

Originally, anticipated to take 20 years to convert it took five from the first stage to the complete trail being opened.  The six years between 1994 and 2000 saw the re-decking and equipping with handrails of some 68 bridges and handrails on over 100 culverts, the replacement of the railway ballast with gravel, and the installation of trailside toilets and most of the interpretation panels and kiosks.

Our People



Kate Wilson (Chairperson)

Lawyer, Dunedin City councillor, wife, mother and business owner, Kate Wilson has been on the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust since 2006, and took over from Daphne Hull as Chairperson in 2012. Dunedin born and bred, Kate in 1992 married and moved on to her husband's farm near Middlemarch where she quickly became involved with numerous organisations. Kate was a key instigator and promoter of the now world famous Middlemarch Singles Dance. She was also involved in the restoration of the Middlemarch Station precinct, the most complete of any in New Zealand.

As a former Trustee of the Taieri Gorge Railway, Kate has been instrumental in cementing the very strong relationship between the Otago Central Rail Trail and Taieri Gorge Railway. As prior owner of Middlemarch's Kissing Gate Cafe, Kate says she always made the most of opportunities to get direct feedback from the many who having experienced the Rail Trail.

Sam Inder

Born and bred in the Maniototo where his family had farmed for four generations, Sam became a member of Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust in 2008. Initially he followed the family path into farming, but in more recent years Sam was manager and the driving force behind the successful upgrade and marketing of the Royal Albatross Centre at Tairoa Head on the Otago Peninsula. Sam's business acumen is further illustrated through his involvement with the City College student halls of accommodation in Dunedin. He chaired the City College Board for its first decade from construction through to completion.

Returning from Dunedin to the Maniototo, Sam has since been involved with the International Curling Rink at Naseby. With his wife Wendy, he has also set up a gift shop in Naseby and a four-wheel drive tours business.

Ken Gillespie

Brought up and farmed just south of Oturehua all his life until 2012.  Now living next to Hayes Engineering Works at Oturehua. Received Community Service award in 2011 Elder in Maniototo Presbyterian Parish, Chairman of Hawkdun Idaburn Irrigation Company.

Involved in a multitude of Community activities including Oturehua Winter Sports Club, Otago Motorcycle Club, Maniototo Curling International, NZ, Curling Association Sextant at Blackstone Hill Cemetry Oturehua Hall Committee.  Tour guide at Hayes Engineering Works – Manitototo Lions Federated Farmers.

Colleen Hurd

Prior to a move to Ophir Colleen and her husband lived in Auckland.  Seeking a change in lifestyle they moved to Ophir and built a house overlooking the Manuherikia Valley part of which was run as a bed and breakfast operation. 

Colleen ran a cafe in Auckland for three and a-half years prior to their move but in 2006 purchased Ophir's Pitches Store to convert to a cafe and restaurant . The building has New Zealand Historic Places Trust Category 2 status, and has now been restored with the exterior looking as "close to the original as possible". 

Colleen became a Trustee in 2016.

Daphne Hull (QSM, MNZM) - Honorary Life Advisory Trustee 

On the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust since its establishment in 1994, Daphne has had a long involvement with the Alexandra and wider community. Initially an Alexandra Borough Councillor before becoming a Central Otago District Councillor, Daphne was Deputy Mayor of the Central Otago District Council and chairperson of the former Alexandra Community Board contributing 19 years in Local Government.

Following Alexandra's destructive 1999 floods, Daphne was one of four representatives who took the community's case to Prime Minister Helen Clark, securing $23m in compensation. A former member of the Otago Business Development Board, The Dunstan Area Health Board and Local School Boards, Daphne's key areas of interest and active involvement over many years are in business and community development with an emphasis on tourism, education, health, and culture.

Daphne retired as a Trustee on 30th October 2017  and was appointed an honorary life advisory trustee. Daphne has been on the trust for 23 years, and was chairwoman  from 2002 to 2012.

Daphne says that of the many voluntary hours she put into the Otago Central Rail Trail each week, she enjoyed every minute, knowing it has become and continues to be an outstanding local, regional and national asset.

John Gibson (Patron)

Like Daphne Hull, John was a founding member of the Otago Central Rail Trail Charitable Trust before retiring in 2013, and resuming a new role as Trust Patron. Describing himself as a retired Maniototo farmer, John is still very much involved in family farming activities that date back to post First World War resettlement of returning servicemen.

John's farming background has proven invaluable at both governance and practical levels. John put to rest concerns voiced by farmers, that users would leave boundary gates across the trail open, by designing a narrow cattle grate installed at one end of each locked boundary gate. Known as 'Gibson Gates', these are wide enough for bikes with panniers bags to be ridden through but function as an effective stock deterrent.

Over the years John's on-trail work has included installing seats he made from sleepers and rails, cementing in Rail Trail Passport stamp boxes at station sites, pouring the concrete foundations for gangers' sheds and consulting with Doc to establish standards for Rail Trail upgrade work.

Clare Toia-Bailey (Trust Facilitator)

Earnscleugh-based, mother of three Clare was appointed in the new part-time role of Trust Facilitator in 2013.  Clare has a strong interest in contributing to the local area she lives in and has a passion to see people enjoying a healthy and active lifestyle.  Clare cycled the trail with friends for the first time in 2009 whilst living in Sydney.  A sure way to get fit after her first child.  So inspired, she relocated back to NZ a few years later with her family to settle in Central Otago.  The role of Trust Facilitator is the opportunity to apply the skills and experience she’s gained from working in different roles for a range of organisations in NZ and Australia.

Tania Murphy (Trust Manager)

The Otago Central Rail Trail Trust Manager, Tania Murphy, has an extensive working relationship with the Trust.  Tania started work for the Department of Conservation, Alexandra in 1998 and became part of the partnership DOC had with the Trust, providing both financial and administration services to the Trust.  Tania retired from DOC in 2013 but has maintained involvement with the Trust providing finance and administration support. This role evolved to one of Trust Manager in September 2017. Having always admired the courage and foresight of those involved in the early establishment of the trail, despite the opposition at the time, she is delighted to be able to continue her support to the Trust in this way.