Gate Pa School is a finalist in the 2017 Bike to the Future Awards for the establishment of a community cycleway on school grounds.
The awards 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.
Gate Pa School has been nominated in this year’s awards for Outstanding Contribution to a Bike Friendly Future Award.
Principal Richard Inder says inspiration to establish the track at their school came around 15 months ago after he spotted a similar idea in an issue of the Education Gazette.
“On the front page they had a big promotion called ‘Bikes in Schools’ with a great big photo of children on their bikes in their own school,” says Richard.
“We basically said why can’t we do that? We have a lot of space.”
After strong support from locals, the school was able to build two tracks one of which is a pumice track that surrounds the perimeter the school field.
“That was the first track and we had that finished and in place by the end of last year,” says Richard.
“We were also able to get sponsorship for a 20 foot shipping container painted with doors and funding for 50 bikes and helmets of all sizes.”
The second track was built at the back of the school, on a section of land that was not being used effectively, says Richard.
“Out the back of our school, we have about eight hectares of bush land which we have used for cross country in the past.”
“We’d had this area there for a while but we didn’t know how best to utilize it, so we decided to build our second track down there.”
“About two thirds of it was already in place we just had to put in some signage and extended the track a bit more.”
Both tracks are open to public and are named the Gate Pa community cycle way and walkway.
“We use the top track around the school every day before and during school hours – it teaches our kids about biking safely, getting fitter and getting more confident on their bike.”
“It’s wonderful to see the kids getting active and biking in school.”
“The second track it’s a bit of a challenge so the kids have to be pretty accomplished on their bikes to go down into the gully.”
He says work is now being done to clean up and maintain the second track.
“What we’re doing now is tidying up the track after the rain,” says Richard.
“We’re also building more channels so the track stays stable and the kids are now involved in planting out native flora and fauna – including grasses and flaxes.”
“The idea is over time there’ll be a lot more bird life near the track.”
Picnic tables will also be installed, to create a more family friendly vibe for community members who use the track and may want to stop.
He says the school’s recent nomination is “great”.
“This award is really an acknowledgement of all the groups that have brought it all together, because we wouldn’t have been able to do it without the people who helped us out with all their expertise and funding.”
“Higgins contractors, in partnership with the Tauranga District Council, built the tracks – provided pumice and expertise.”
“Bikes in Schools Charitable Trust, a nationwide organization which provides funding for bikes, provided $10,000 to the school, the Local rotary provided $5000 and Container Co, provided the 20 foot shipping container that is being used to store bikes at the school.”
He says the track has now encouraged other schools to take by example.
“We’re the first school in Tauranga to have a track around the school.”
“Recently Craig Price from Selwyn Ridge School visited our school and now he wants a track at theirs,” says Richard.
Tauranga City Council TravelSafe Team Leader, Karen Smith, says she nominated Gate Pa School for the award.
“Principal Richard Inder was the driving force in building this valuable community resource that can be used by all ages.”
“It has a point of difference in that there are two tracks, one in the school and a more challenging option through the bush.”
“It’s a great resource for the school and wider community to develop cycle skills.”
Winners of the awards will be announced October 19.