Otaki Needs Teen Amenity

Pump track at the Avantidrome in Cambridge — why not Otaki too?

The struggle for a pump track for Otaki teenagers 

By Ann Lawler in Otaki

During a visit to Napier/Cambridge almost three years ago, I saw some great bike tracks and realised how neglected Otaki teens are.

Enthusiasts in Otaki tried hard to get something similar, but so far the Kapiti Coast District Council and the Otaki Community Board have failed to come up with the goods.

Enthusiasts’ advice

Interested groups in Cambridge, the Napier Council, Bike NZ and Hastings all sent data on how to build a simple pump track.

And Kapiti’s David Leydon and other bikers made generous offers of time and support.

What a good pump track looks like — teenagers enjoy the experience at Riverside Park, in Cambridge, Washington State, USA

Because of the  20-plus kilometres  to tracks at Paraparaumu or Levin, and poor public transport locally, Otaki needs its own cycle tracks.

Otaki has the land!

Otaki has the land. I talked with KCDC Parks & Reserves Manager Lex Bartlett who’d supervised the spend of  $50K on play equipment — and a $30K shelter — at Aotaki , making the park both useful and valuable.

Play equipment is unusual at skate parks but if it’s good enough for Aotaki St skate park, why not have similar equipment districtwide, at all rugby grounds, netball courts and tennis courts where kids wait?

Lions offer help

In June 2014 Lions announced they were restarting in Otaki and wanted projects. I emailed their president, sent him the pump track info I’d sent Lex Bartlett in May.

The Lions were interested. They inspected the grassy west end of Aotaki St skate park ,created when funds for the original skate park on gifted land ran out.

Colin Pearce’s part

The Otaki Community Board (OCB) member, the late Colin Pearce, was interested, too.

In 2014, he, a Lion’s member and I went to Napier, Hastings and Taradale to see tracks, met biking experts, city and sports officials and learned the tricks of track building.

During June, July, August, the Lions tried repeatedly to contact Mr Bartlett and other staff about the site – any site – but got the runaround. In retrospect, I think, someone ‘had their eye on that site’.

At an OCB meeting on September 2, in 2014, a board member saw a picture of the Napier bike track on the committee secretary’s laptop.

Although at most OCB meetings, ‘show and tell’ is ignored, this time it was veni, vidi, vici.

They say power corrupts but not this time, this power constructed.

Path plan scooted ahead

It took two months, but on November 7, the  KCDC’s Open Space Planner had a draft concept scooter path plan.

In just a month, quotes were called, contracts let, seal laid, signs up and by December 10 the $49,980 track was in use!

Who says KCDC doesn’t deliver. As well as an essential WC, the Council has spent $150,000 at Aotaki skatepark since it was built. Nothing more for skateboarders though, at Otaki’s only skate park.

Vacant site available

Ninety metres from the skate park there was a vacant three hectare KCDC site.

Lex Bartlett said it was for social housing (it’s designated for settling pond overflow) but two weeks later, in October, Tamsin Evans said there was no plan for more social housing in Otaki. Lex said the land was leased but wouldn’t discuss the lease.

The scooter path is popular, and lots of ‘littlies’ have graduated to the big track, justifying parental pride.

But imagine the impact on the now frustrated older skateboarders — the Otaki Board rejected user requests for lights five years ago, so skateboarders  can’t use it in the evenings.

So where does that leave skateboarders for whom the track was built? Mostly grounded rather than up in the air. But doesn’t the ‘littlies’ track photograph well!

Skateboarders still hopeful

Still hopeful, the skateboarders said a dirt pump track like the one at Taupo/Taradale would be great.

The Waitohu Quarry supply a lime-dirt mix for Paraparaumu; so this mix could be used.

If the pump track went well, with a site of more than three hectares, the Council  could add a BMX track later.

I tried to talk sites again: but the local District Councillor and KCDC staff got Kapiti Mountainbiker members come to Otaki to select the ‘ideal’ pump track site. It’s a case of ‘locals know so little!’

This group chose a lower level Haruatai Park site by the stream. It’s somewhat concealed and shady. It is damp in winter and two kilometres from Aotaki St.

It lacks these Aotaki St/Riverbank Road advantages:

  1. Open to scrutiny all the time;
  2. Plenty of parking;
  3. Room to add tracks and amenities;
  4. Close to existing tracks;
  5. Ideal for the excellent government funded Bikes in Schools scheme;
  6. Sunny;
  7. Big enough for a BMX track – a new Olympic sport.

A total of 25% of Otaki residents are under 19, but BMX bikers go across ages. In fact, ‘individual’ sports are now as popular as team sports.

That three-plus ha site would be ideal. Haruatai car parking is short now, how will it be after the upgraded pool and new splashpad – as Mark Twain said: ‘land? they ain’t making any more’.

Land offered

In December 2014, land was offered in Addington Rd on the understanding that, if the owner wanted to use it, any group using it would leave. This was too short-term a solution, but at least he did show an interest.

Not so the KCDC. It was not interested in a project that would have cost them nothing, delivered a proven product, and provided an economic gain — cycling is a BIG tourist attraction.

The Lions would have built the track with community help.

But it’s not too late for KCDC to offer support to bikers and teens, to plan ahead, plant trees for shade and shelter on the easy to get to, open to view site.\

When a councillor and staff stymied the Otaki Lions’ effort to deliver a community amenity, this should have been seen as a warning that the long promised Tasman Rd basketball court wouldn’t go ahead either.

And yes,instead of this, last year a second basketball court joined the first, at Haruatai Park.

A check of the 2015 LTP submissions shows that over 80% of the 500 did not support the KCDC’s second ratepayer-funded splashpad.

But that’s where $500,000 is going – without even a report like the 84 page investigation Porirua commissioned in 2014 “Options and Site Review Report for Outdoor Water Play”.

Considering the Porirua report, that Council decided against a splash pad.

But without a report to consider, the KCDC decided ‘their’ ratepayers will buy two!

Otaki deserves better than this.