Posted by Sheena Spittles
After a request from local Principal, Richard Inder, Tauranga Rotary became involved in the “Bikes for Schools” campaign at Gate Pa Primary School.
His vision was to transform a disused field behind the school, into a hive of activity for the community.
 
After strong support from locals, the school was able to build two tracks around the school, one of which is a pumice track that surrounds the perimeter of the school field, and the other utilizes some of the eight hectares of bush land behind the school to create a more adventurous mountain bike track.  Both tracks are open to the public, and named “Gate Pa Community Cycleway and Walkway”. 
Tauranga Rotary used a District Grant, and with additional funding from “Bikes in Schools Charitable Trust”, was able to purchase fifty new bikes for the school and fifty helmets for the cyclists.  A container was purchased to store the bikes, and then the work of assembling them began.
 
A team of keen Rotarians from Tauranga Rotary, together with their partners, spent some time working with the students to assemble the bikes, talking to them as they worked, and explaining a little about the work of Rotary. Within three hours, fifty new bikes lined the school corridors.  It was then time to join the students on the track for what was a new experience for some. Others were shown how to use the track safely and assisted as they became more confident on their bikes.
 
Following a lap around the school grounds by the Minister of Transport, Simon Bridges, the track was official declared open.  The top track is now used daily before and after school hours, teaching the students about bike safety, and developing their fitness and confidence, as many children in the school do not own bikes of their own. They are also taught essential skills such as how to maintain the bikes, and change tyres.
 
As the children have now planted out a number of native trees and shrubs along the track, it is envisaged that more bird life will be attracted, and in the future picnic tables will be installed for the use of community members using the area.
 
Gate Pa is a finalist in the 2017 Bike To The Future Awards, which are organised by the New Zealand Transport Agency and Cycling Action Network to celebrate people and projects making cycling a better way to get around. The award ceremony will take place in October.
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