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Wheels in motion at Awapuni School

Put on your helmet and get on your wheels, Awapuni School now boasts a brand new bike track thanks to a combined community effort.

The track has been in the works for several years but often felt more like a dream project, says Awapuni School principal Nik House.

“Now the students have been loving it, it's such an asset for our school during the day,” said Mr House.

“But one of the visions with making it concrete was so our community can use it out of hours too.

“Schools are an incredible resource and we want our community to feel like they can be here and make the most of this facility.”

Mr House said it was thanks to their neighbours Downer and Aitkens — who just so happen to work in construction and concrete — they got the support they needed to get the project across the line.

“There was a pool of funding from the Bikes in Schools that was sufficient to complete the project including bike purchases and the initial track with a stone surface.”

The school has had support from Downers, Aitkens, Bikes in Schools, Connext Trust, Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, Trust Tairawhiti, Gisborne District Council, Eastern & Central Community Trust and the New Zealand Community Trust.

“The plan for Awapuni prior to my beginning (as principal, in 2019) was to have a concrete track so that it would be usable anytime and scooters could also utilise it.

“The challenge was how we were going to fund that. We approached both Downers and Aitkens, our neighbours, and they both offered to come on board and support us to complete the project, for which we have been absolutely grateful.”

The project came about after the school identified a bike track as an additional avenue for education.

The bikes would aid in health and fitness, teach bike riding skills that could transfer to the road, and would benefit the wider community.

Jo Haughey from Bikes in Schools and Connext Trust is delighted with the outcome.

“It's been about two years in the making and we're delighted to be here. The school's worked hard to make sure they had a hard surface track.

“For me,” Mrs Haughey said, “It's about the kids and us recognising the trends that show many kids lacking confidence on bikes.

“The programme also addresses the equity issue because for some whanau it may not be easy to access a bike.”

And for kids like Isobel Gurau (9) it does exactly that.

She is unable to ride at home because she lives in the country where it was too dangerous for her to practise on the roads with highspeed cars and logging trucks, Isobel said.

With support from Bikes in Schools, on-site there are bicycles, helmets and the track all in the same location so students can learn the basics.

Alongside the gear, Cycle Gisborne offers classes for students on how to be a safe cyclist.

“One of the most rewarding parts has been for those kids who couldn't cycle and seeing them up and running,” said Mrs Haughey.

A TEAM EFFORT: All set to take to the new Awapuni School bike track are, from left, Archie Cook, 10, Tiana Hoet, 10, Isobel Gurau, 9, and Rhodes Dennison, 10, with Awapuni School principal Nik House, Aitkens Concrete plant manager Stephanie McClutchie, Connext Trust general manager Jo Haughey, Downer stakeholder and communications manager Kate Reynolds, Downer contract manager Hammy Al-Jammal and Awapuni School caretaker Allan Rogers. Picture by Liam Clayton