A group of Twin Coast Cycle Trail riders claim that they had to pedal for their lives when they were chased by a pack of aggressive dogs on Friday afternoon.
Concerns for the safety of other riders left them questioning whether they could recommend the trail to others despite superb scenery and top-notch local accommodation and transport.
The incident also alarmed a Kaikohe hotel owner, who is urging the Far North District Council and police to act before someone is hurt and businesses creating much-needed employment suffer due to riders staying away.
The group of eight were riding along Ngapipito Rd on Friday, Aucklander Nicky Davidson saying three who were leading were rushed by three large dogs that appeared from a driveway. They began pedalling faster in a bid to get away, with the dogs close behind, one woman jumping over a fence. Another came within centimetres of being bitten.
The dogs eventually gave up and returned to their property, but the five slower cyclists stopped in a driveway, afraid to ride past while the dogs continued to bark and threaten.
A local couple went to their aid, offering the use of their landline — the valley has minimal cellphone coverage — and told them it was a regular occurrence. Davidson had since heard from other riders who had had similar experiences.
''To be honest, none of would recommend doing the eastern part of the trail. What if we recommended it and someone was attacked? There's hundreds of beautiful routes without menacing dogs," she said.
Left Bank co-owner Di Maxwell said she was reluctant to ''make a noise'' about the dog incident because cycle trail users made up about half her guests, but she feared the problem would get worse if she didn't speak up.
Initially she was told animal control could not act because no one had been injured, but the fact that the dogs were wandering and menacing was enough to prompt action, and council staff could ask for police backup if they were afraid to enter the property.
''It's not good for business, it's not good for the community, it's not good for any damn thing," she said.
She had also been frustrated when she, and others, couldn't get through on the council's 0800 number to report the incident on Friday. In the end her husband had resorted to phoning a senior council employee directly.
An animal management officer contacted Davidson on Saturday, after Maxwell reported the incident. Spokesman Ken Lewis said the council would be able to give a detailed response once staff had taken a statement from the complainant, which they were due to do on Tuesday.
Adrienne Tari, general manager of Pou Herenga Tai Twin Coast Cycle Trail, said she would follow up with animal control, and would contact the cyclists so they knew the trust was concerned and took the matter seriously.