A website previously owned by Rotorua Lakes Council to promote its cycle ways is now a gambling-related site.
The website was used to promote the council's cycle ways, which were partly funded through the National Urban Cycleway Fund. The site was created in March 2016.
The website, which is now registered to a kebab and pizza shop in Germany, purports to "share happiness" and has several blog posts about online casinos and gambling.
The council says it was aware of the new website, had retired the old one, and the CyWay brand was being "progressively phased out".
An information sheet live on the council website on Tuesday referred users to the Cyway website and has a QR code that linked to it.
A page on the Waka Kotahi NZTA website titled Rotorua Urban Cycleways Programme referred to the network as 'Cyway' and the website ranked highly on a Google search of "CyWay".
Cyclist Ryan Gray, who ran as a candidate in the 2019 local election, discovered the issue while looking for information on the CyWay design.
He said when he looked up the CyWay website he was surprised to find information about online casinos instead of cycleways.
The website's 'about Cyway' section claimed the website had "appeared on the Queenstown's newspaper [sic]".
Media outlets in Queenstown expressed no knowledge of the website.
Crux managing editor Peter Newport said Crux had not run a story about the website, while Otago Daily Post-owned Mountain Scene editor Tracey Roxburgh said her publications had "never written a word" about it.
The domain is registered in Germany and lists a kebab and pizza shop in Hamburg as the registrar's address.
A person who answered the phone at that address said they were not aware of the Cyway website.
The owner of the site has been contacted via the email address listed with registration.
Netsafe operations centre safety manager Sean Lyons said there was nothing about the website to suggest cyber security malintent, but it was a possibility.
There were no significant inward or outward links or advertising and no known malware.
"It doesn't look like it's doing anything. It's a real head-scratcher. It's one of the weirdest things we've seen in a long time."
Lyons said when domains lapsed there was a grace period where original registrars were given the opportunity to renew.
"It's a word of caution [for domain holders]. When you take time and effort to build a community around a domain, it pays to think carefully about the management of that domain."
He said some people browsed recently lapsed domains to purchase with the aim of charging large amounts for the original owners to purchase them back.
In a written statement via the council communications team, council infrastructure and environment deputy chief executive Stavros Michael said the CyWay work programme concluded last year.
"This was a three-year programme, part funded by Waka Kotahi, to create an initial physical network of shared paths.
"Once the programme was completed, the website was no longer required and was retired."
He said the council's broader cycling infrastructure, which would continue to "be enhanced", was now included in the council's Safe and Sustainable Journeys work programme.
"The CyWay brand has been progressively phased out and all web links should now lead to our Safe and Sustainable Journeys web pages."
A council spokeswoman said the council had not received any correspondence from the new registrar.
"Once a domain has been retired, we have no say over who may use it in future."
Gray believed the site should have been retained to redirect to correct information.
"You would think, for the sake of maintaining easy access to a recognised brand, given it says Cyway all around town on the cycleways, that [the council] would keep the URL for another year and link to the current information."
In response, Michael said CyWay signage was being updated as it came up for renewal.
"There is very little CyWay branding left on shared paths."
In 2016 the council stated the 26km CyWay project would cost $5.52m, made up of $1.9m from the council, $2.1m from Waka Kotahi NZTA and $2.6m from the government's Urban Cycleways Fund.