A seasoned cycle tour guide author may have to put the brakes on his promotion of Napier as the "cycling capital of New Zealand" because of the theft of his cameras with his bike in Napier last month.
Nigel Rushton, of Christchurch, was in Hawke's Bay preparing material for his next edition of cycling tour directory the North Island Pedallers Paradise when the bike was stolen and wrecked soon after 5pm on May 31.
Two cameras with numerous pictures highlighting the paths and cycleways of Napier were stolen from bags on the bike which had been left leaning against a wall at Snowgoose Apartments in Kennedy Rd, barely 2 metres from where Mr Rushton was talking to friends.
It was found on fire a short while later at the Pirimai Shopping Centre. Children saw a man, possibly aged about 40, fleeing across the grounds of the former Pirimai School, but no one has been arrested and police have established no suspects.
Making the best of a bad situation, Mr Rushton is back in Christchurch where he hopes surviving bike parts can be used to build bikes for people who cannot afford their own, part of a "big-bike fix-up" project with which he has been involved in the city, which used to be the Kiwi cycling capital.
Mr Rushton - an ex-Brit who has cycled twice around the North Island and has been writing bike tour guide books since the mid-1990s - says the torched bike hadn't been a particularly expensive model.
However, the same could not be said for the two "expensive cameras" and "all the wonderful photos I have taken, of Napier, and other parts of the North Island".
Ironically, he said, at the time the bike "disappeared into the night", he and his friends were reminiscing about cycling experiences in Japan.
"We were marvelling at how safe it was, how we never had to lock our bikes.
"How we were able to leave our valuables and documents in the front basket while shopping and sightseeing, and never having any of our stuff stolen once. New Zealand used to be like that once - perhaps 30 years ago - but not any more," said Mr Rushton, whose "variety of jobs" is punctuated by services to the needy. "Why not?" he challenged.
"What went wrong? It is a sick society that tolerates such inequalities as we have allowed to cause behaviour like this."
While publications might be delayed because of the loss of the photos, his own images of Napier have not been tarnished. "While there I had the pleasure of riding along some of your wonderful cycle paths, a feature I will most certainly mention," he said.
"Napier must now be considered the cycling capital of New Zealand. Well done."
Napier Mayor Barbara Arnott said incidents like Mr Rushton's were bad for tourism in the region and a few people in Napier were willing to act in that way.
"Having his bike stolen is bad enough but it's the tools of his trade - that makes it even worse."
She said for Mr Rushton to call Napier the "cycling capital of New Zealand" was great after 10 years of building and incorporating cycling pathways into Napier city roadways. "We always set out to make Napier pathways accessible to all people. We want to make it easy for people to use."
- additional reporting by Sam Hurley.