More cycle-, walkways

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ON YA BIKE: Carolyn Hamill, Mike van der Boom, Owen Mata, Richard Hamer and David

FEEDBACK in the Whakatane District Council’s community vision process shows residents want more cycle tracks for recreational use and every day transport.

District councillor and cycle-enthusiast, Mike van der Boom, said early feedback to the community vision, Ki Mua, showed many of the respondents wanted to see more cycle-ways and walkways.

“As council begins long term planning we need to think about how we prioritise resources to meet the wishes of the community and provide core functions of council.”

In a bid to encourage that conversation and potential solutions, Mr van der Boom invited Owen Mata to Whakatane last week.

Mr Mata was responsible for the implementation of the Model Community at Hastings.

In 2010, Mr Mata was working for the Hastings District Council and helped to submit a proposal to the New Zealand Transport Agency about becoming New Zealand’s first Model Community.

Mr Mata said the Model Community initiative was designed to demonstrate that carefully planned sustained investment in walking and cycling could have a positive impact on a community. Hastings was awarded $4 million Government funding, supported by $2.4 million local contribution, to undertake the two-year programme.

Mr Mata said the initiative was successful and as a result he was contracted by NZTA to visit other districts in New Zealand to discuss the benefits of investing in walking and cycling.

“There is huge potential for Whakatane,” he said.

“Nothing is easy because at the end of the day you are talking about reversing years and years’ worth of no investment into cycle-ways and walkways but it is not impossible.”

Mr Mata said the work by Whakatane District Council with schools in the area was making headway. He said the work involved educating students and parents about walking and cycling to school as well as making the routes to school safer.

“I don’t think any parent wants to drive their children to the school gate. They want to be able to give them some independence that cycling to school gives as well as promoting a healthy and fit lifestyle.”

karla.akuhata@whakatanebeacon.co.nz

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