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Making tracks at Kaiti School

Kaiti School is the first of many in the region to receive a new bike track, helmets and fleet of bikes.

Gisborne Cycle Tour Company owner Katrina Duncan has been working on the project since she found out about the Bike On New Zealand Charitable Trust 18 months ago. The trust aims to make sure all Kiwi kids can ride a bike regularly, within school, through its national Bikes in Schools’ Programme.

Ms Duncan brought the idea back to the region and through the support of Bike On’s Paul McArdle, worked alongside Sport Gisborne to promote the idea.

The cost of setting up the initiative at each school is about $60,000. This includes bike tracks, a fleet of bikes and helmets for every student and cycle skills training for students and teachers. Gisborne District Council is contributing $50,000 a year for 10 years, via the $12 million allocated to active transport priorities towards the project.

Ms Duncan said low cycle ownership and participation in cycling in this region highlighted the need for a project like this.

“Other factors such as an obesity epidemic in this country and in this region highlight the need to get kids more active. This is something obese children can actively engage in and it is safe for them to do also. It is great for balance too, which is proven to improve students’ learning capabilities.”

Kaiti School will receive three tracks — a 480m riding track, a pump track and a skills track. The tracks will be made of compacted limestone.

Principal Billie-Jean Potaka-Ayton says having a bike track fits in with the school’s hauora plan.

“A lot of our kids do not have bikes and we hope having somewhere to ride a bike will encourage parents to get them for their children. The track is central too, so it will be used by community groups as well. It is not just for the school, it is for the whole community.”

New staff memberKaiti will employ a new staff member when school starts back up again next month.

“I have done a bit of research in the schools that already have bike tracks and you need someone there making sure all the bikes are maintained. We are so grateful to the sponsors for this track and their efforts to get our kids on bikes, one of which was the Kaiti school board of trustees who also contributed.”

Fulton Hogan have started work on the tracks, which will be done in time for the first day of school.

Kahurangi Wray, 6, was one of the students present for the sod. Although councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown did the honours on the first sod, the real work started after with the Fulton Hogan diggers.

“The diggers are awesome and I think biking is fun,” said Kahurangi.

Fellow student Ainise Toupili 7, is very excited about the new tracks.

“Now we are allowed bikes at school it is going to be great. It is going to be amazing.”

Previously students were not allowed on their bikes during play time because there was no designated bike area, but all that will change at Kaiti School.

Cycle Gisborne’s cycle trainers will be on site for the first few weeks to help all the children and teachers learn to ride and use all of the tracks.

FIRST OF MANY: Councillor Meredith Akuhata-Brown digs the first sod for Kaiti School’s new bike track. With her are Fulton Hogan regional manager Andrew Harvey and Andy Cranston on her right and she is flanked by students Kahurangi Wray and Ainise Toupili. Picture by Paul Rickard