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Saturday 15 October 2022 | Written by Al Williams | Published in Features, Go Local

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BMX dream fast becoming a reality …
The site is signposted at Ngatangiia. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/22101431

Grand plans are in place for the future of BMX in the Cook Islands and there is some heavyweight support in making it a reality.

Work has been underway on a new BMX (Bicycle Motocross) track in Ngatangiia for the past 12 months,and those behind the project are hoping to see it operational by March, 2023.

The project was initiated by Tony Takurua, a Cook Islander based in New Zealand, heavily involved in BMX in NZ, a New Zealand Cycling selector, and national constructor of BMX tracks throughout New Zealand.

Three of his children Holly, Trent and Josh have represented New Zealand nationally and internationally, raced in the world championships, and Trent has represented NZ at the Olympics. His eldest son Damien has represented New Zealand and the Cook Islands in rugby league.

Former New Zealand BMX representative and Cook Islands Cycling board member Damien Beddoes is on board, along with former BMX competitor, executive, selector and New Zealand District Court Judge Bruce Northwood, Rarotonga businessman Chris Vale, and Matt Wyatt.

Estimated costs will run into the hundreds of thousands, and the group has pooled wider support from international groups and individuals to move the project forward.

Beddoes, on the ground in Rarotonga, says it’s a reality and he’s confident the first of two tracks, a pump track for junior riders, will be open early in 2023.

He says the project was born out of a desire of the Takurua family to give back to the Cook Islands.

“Tony’s children have represented New Zealand on the international stage at world and Olympic level for New Zealand, and they want to give back and provide opportunities for kids in the Cook Islands to experience, develop and learn cycling skills to support healthy lifestyles, and for those wanting more a pathway to international level.

The new Cook Islands Cycling Federation BMX and skateboard park at Ngatangiia. From left: Teruaroa Rangatira James (Jimmy) Rennie, Vaka Takitumu’s Pa Marie Ariki and Olympic Selector for Cycling New Zealand Tony Takurua in 2021. 21092803.

“Tony met up with me, found out I was a former New Zealand BMX representative, and asked if I was interested in helping give back, what could I say, it’s an amazing family sport and has so many positive aspects to it from enjoyment, health, family time, friends, competition and more.

“Tony also brought Bruce Northwood in to support the project, and Bruce is now our president. Bruce is a District Court Judge in New Zealand, and has held executive positions in New Zealand BMX and Cycling, and is also a NZ selector.”

Takurua’s construction company in NZ are specialists in the building of BMX and pump tracks throughout NZ, says Beddoes.

“His company is the constructor of the track here, so we have serious expertise and experience to ensure it is done right.

“His company is prepared to return to the Cook Islands in January to construct the first stage – BMX Pump Track.”

So what about funding, estimated costs and timelines?

Beddoes estimates close to $350,000, but it is an “unknown quantity” as people are also donating time and resources.

More money is needed, obviously, and the group has, and is making applications to various organisations.        

“We have donated all our own time and efforts this far. 

“Pa Ariki has supported the project for the kids, granting a lease to the Cycling Federation to ensure the long-term security as a park for the use and enjoyment by the kids,” Beddoes says.

“Chris Vale has supported us initially with machinery that enabled us to landscape and prepare the site for drainage and construction, he is continuing that support once we commence construction.

“Cook Islands Cycling Federation has funding from our Oceania organisation, and we are purchasing bikes and safety equipment to be shipped up here for the kids to use once the pump track is constructed.”

Beddoes says there have been learning curves.

“Instead of trying to construct the entire park in one go, we have separated it into stages to make it affordable and achievable.

“The first stage was to secure a lease of land for the kids, the second stage was to landscape the site to prepare for construction.

“Both these stages are now complete, stage three is to construct a Pump Track, a pump track is the entry level to teach kids cycling skills on, and can even hold mini competitions on.”

Stage four is the BMX track which is the main track for kids to progress to, and also be able to hold club, national, and international events on.

“The fifth stage is a skate board park, this is probably the most expensive component, so we have left this for last as it will require the most effort and funding.”

In order to start construction of the Pump Track, the organisation has applied to the New Zealand High Commission for funding support.

“We are hopeful we are successful in our application.

“If this is approved, we have the construction team ready to commence work on the Pump Track from January 2023 and will be ready by the end of March 2023, with kids programmes starting within a month of completion.

“While we are heavily reliant on our own personal time and efforts, there are some components we have to pay for, so require funding to enable us to get this over the line for the kids. We are in need of sponsors, and appreciate if any business is wanting to be involved in the development of this great projects for our kids we’d be happy to work with them.”

Beddoes is extremely excited about the project, and what it could mean for BMX and the Cook Islands. A BMX bike is an off-road sport bicycle used for racing and stunt riding.

“BMX was something I did as a youth, everyone had a bike.

“There are no parks here for kids to safely learn.

“So we are doing this properly, that’s why we got Tony, he is already with NZ Cycling, he is a BMX selector, he has been heavily involved as a track constructor, he is a Cook Islander and he recently completed construction of a BMX track in Auckland.”

Cook Islands Cycling board member Damien Beddoes says there is a future for BMX in the Cook Islands. PHOTO: AL WILLIAMS/22101430

He says there will be some slight differences in construction of the Rarotonga track.

It will be designed in a way to allow water to run off.

“It has evolved, the project was initially too big for everyone.”

It will cover an area about 140 metres in length and 50 metres in width – about 7000 square metres.

“We have some drawings, it all comes down to funding really,” reiterates Beddoes.

“The pathway is set, we construct a pump track which is entry level to teach kids the skills to go on to the big track.”

The tracks will be up to international competition standards, which leads him to say, there is hope Cook Islands could one day host international level competitions.

In terms of regional competitions, if New Zealand and Australia were included, more than 1000 riders could converge on Rarotonga for such events, Beddoes says.

“The organisation is set up and supported, we have plans for outreach programmes for schools/kids, pathways identified to international representation, support from Oceania BMX to bring international events to the Cook Islands, bikes and safety equipment funded to ensure access and opportunity for all kids.”