A rousing haka launched Northland's first Bikes in Schools project at Raurimu Avenue Primary School in Whangarei.

And once the ribbon was cut, youngsters - and politicians - hit the 340m cycle track now winding around the playing field at the Onerahi school.

Pedal power gave them all big grins after completing a circuit.

"It's fun," said both 12-year-old Rocky Toatahi and Whangarei MP Phil Heatley.


School principal Sally Wilson said the new track had more benefits than mere entertainment.

"It's another component in the move to improve children's health. A fitter child is more focused in the classroom," she said.

Bikes in Schools guru Paul McArdle agreed.

"Learning to ride bikes gives kids confidence and self-esteem." he said. "They learn the road rules and how to manage risks.

"Financially, Bikes in Schools is not a cost - it's an investment which will pay dividends for years to come." Mr McArdle, of Hastings, used to live in Holland. When he returned about three years ago he and his wife set up the Bike On Trust to promote the health benefits they had seen cycling bring to youngsters in Europe.

Eight Hawke's Bay schools now have cycle tracks, there are eight more around the country, and the popular projects are gaining national acceptance.

Bike Northland co-ordinator Stu Bell said he had 13 schools around Northland keen to develop cycle tracks.

"At Raurimu Avenue Primary we followed the Bikes in Schools model, enlisting community help for the project" he said.

Fonterra had donated about $2000 to buy cycle helmets for the school's 115 pupils, Avoca Lime had provided 30 tonnes of lime and McKenzie Contracting had built the track. Bike Northland and the Bike On Trust had each donated six bikes.

"Forty bikes are needed for each project, so if someone provides about $10,000 we could kit out another school," Mr Bell said.

Whangarei District Council representative Brian McLachlan said the next school project in the city was likely to be Manaia View Primary at Raumanga in the western sector of the council's planned strategy for city walkways and cycleways.