Representatives from NZ Police, Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust and Ara Poutama Aotearoa with staff and students from Kaingaroa Forest School.Refurbished bikes have been gifted to young people in Rotorua and surrounding areas as part of a joint initiative by New Zealand Police and Ara Poutama Aotearoa.

The initiative has been running for three years. It’s part of a memorandum of understanding between Rotorua Police and Waikeria Prison to refurbish old bikes left with police or donated by members of the community. The bikes are stripped, serviced and spruced up by men in prison for police to distribute to at-risk youth and families in need.

Rotorua Energy Charitable Trust has been a valuable supporter of the initiative by providing funding for bike parts needed for the repairs.

Constable Christie Gordon says the initiative was born out of a situation where a young boy swapped his bike for another, which turned out to be stolen. When the boy discovered the bike was stolen, he told his mother and they handed it in to Rotorua Police.

“I thought there must be something we can do to help kids who don’t have a lot or to reward exemplary behavior to encourage them to do the right thing.”

“So we put our heads together with our friends at Corrections and came up with a solution.”

Waikeria Prison Industries Manager Rawiri White on Friday delivered five more bikes to Rotorua Police Station where they were handed over to Kaingaroa Forest School Principal Marylouise Macpherson-Hall.

Marylouise says the students are absolutely thrilled to receive the bikes and expects they will be well used.

“Bikes are something that aren’t readily available to a lot of our rangatahi outside of school - receiving these really means a lot to them.”

“We don’t yet have a playground at our school, so we have to get creative and often rely on things like bikes and scooters as a way for our rangatahi to release their physical energy in a positive way.”

“We are very thankful to all those involved in the initiative who have supported our school.”

Rawiri says the bikes are an excellent way for people in prison to make a meaningful contribution to the community, while learning valuable skills for future employment.

“Initiatives like this help set people in prison on a path to reintegration back into the community upon release.”

“The men involved really connected with the initiative – knowing what they’re doing is something positive for the community.”