Rotorua Daily Post health and business reporter

Mountain bike patrol to start in Rotorua (+ video)

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The number of Rotorua mountain biking claims to ACC has almost quadrupled in the past five years - prompting the organisation to help fund a new mountain bike patrol in the Whakarewarewa Forest.

Last year there were 825 claims for mountain biking injuries in the Rotorua district, costing more than $1.2 million. That's almost four times the number of claims five years ago, when just 214 were logged.

The Rotorua Mountain Bike Club has raised nearly $80,000 to provide first response for injured forest users including the purchase of a vehicle that can carry a stretcher, as well as $12,000 worth of first aid equipment.

It has now also secured ACC funding to employ a professional bike patrol for six months, during weekends and peak holiday periods starting in December.

Club committee member Tu Mutu said the idea was to keep the patrol fully funded for as long as possible.

Mr Mutu said they'd had to use their own vehicles to go into the forest to help injured bikers previously.

His business, Mountain Bike Rotorua, has been providing first response for injured riders on a voluntary basis - sometimes going out several times a day during peak times.

Mr Mutu said the new bike patrol would work in conjunction with the voluntary service.

Club secretary Barbara Jenks said the patrol could save lives by providing swift first response and preventing further injury - especially spinal and brain injuries.

"There is a clear need for an expanded first response service as visitor numbers continue to grow."

She said the patrollers would also have an injury prevention role - engaging with riders about how to ride tracks safely, advising on track grading and suitability for riders, and providing education.

Mrs Jenks said the success of mountain biking in Rotorua had huge economic benefits for the community.

"Consequently it is important that the club on behalf of the community provides a first response service to keep riders safe."

ACC spokeswoman Stephanie Melville said the first responders would be qualified in pre-hospital emergency care.

They would arrange safe transport to a site where usual emergency services could take injured people to hospital.

"The patrol brings an injury prevention focus alive with highly visible, personable patrollers who will be out and about in the forest. If this pilot proves to be effective, it could be rolled out to other popular mountain biking areas such as Otago and Canterbury."

She said there were an estimated 500,000 biker visits to the forest this year.

"With plans to develop more trails in the forest, this number is expected to grow, with associated injury also likely to increase."

St John Lakes area territorial manager Steve Lynch said the new professional patrols would allow quicker access to patients, and the ability for first patrollers to get information to the ambulance crew - including whether ambulance or rescue helicopters were required.

He said they had also put codes on marker posts at the start and end of each trail - loaded into the ambulance system with the GPS codes and best access points - to allow injured riders to be reached more easily.

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