Giant bike funding keeps project alive

By Dee Wilson

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Turangi-Tongariro Community Board chairman Gary Keepa has welcomed a council decision to contribute funding towards the construction of a giant bike for Turangi.

The bike will be similar to the giant bike at the top of the control gates hill in Taupo.

Mr Keepa says although the $12,000 contribution from council's public art budget falls short of the $20,000 the community board was seeking, it is enough to keep the project alive.

Project co-ordinator Rose Blackley says it's hoped the giant bike will be a catalyst and start point for other cycle initiatives planned for Turangi. They include a pump and jump track similar to Taupo's Spa Park track, a BMX facility and a Bikes in Schools programme in Turangi.

At last week's meeting, councillors unanimously supported contributing the $12,000 in the 2012/13 arts and sculpture budget toward the giant bike project. A resolution put forward by Mr Keepa to make up the $8000 shortfall with unbudgeted expenditure was lost seven votes to three.

Mr Keepa says the council funding will ``keep the project rolling''. He is hoping more funding can be put towards the project when budgets for the 2013/14 financial year are determined.

Although council only contributed $3500 to the Taupo giant bike, the actual cost of the final art work escalated from an estimated $7000 to $55,000. The shortfall was made up by individuals and businesses who donated their time and/or materials. That included 661 hours that designer Marcel Zwezerijnen put into the bike. Cycle enthusiast Richard Balm, who spoke at last week's council meeting on behalf of Rose Blackley, said the Taupo giant bike had been something of a ``learning experience'' that resulted in a ``work of art'' that exceeded all expectations.

Mr Balm said this time around, organisers hoped to be able to pay the artist something more for his work. It was hoped that the council support of the project would encourage Turangi businesses, individuals and organisations to match the contribution dollar for dollar in cash or donations of time and materials.

Mr Keepa praised Rose Blackley and Richard Balm for their commitment to the Turangi project and other bike initiatives for the town.

``I am a supporter of anything that is an attraction in terms of getting people to stop in the area and would love to see our community get in behind the projects.''

Bikes in Schools spokesperson Cath Oldfield says a giant bike in Turangi would link with other initiatives aimed at getting more local kids on bikes.

``It's great to have people from out of town coming here for events , but we also want to get locals using the tracks and their bikes - starting with the kids.

``If we can get them riding, the flow-on follows to their whanau.''

She says Tongariro School would be a wonderful base for a Bikes in Schools programme with potential to develop a track inside the school grounds that could be used in conjunction with the Tongariro River Trail. Cath says the goal is to get up to 50 bikes and helmets for Tongariro School with lock up storage and a local champion for the project.

She says the initiatives are healthy, fun, improve self-esteem and gets kids out of cars.


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