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700km bike ride in seven days for Bay View: Englishwoman helps raise thousands for cyclone-affected areas

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When Amy-lou Turner came to New Zealand from the UK in early 2020, she never expected it would become a haven from Covid-19 as the fear and isolation was ravaging her home country.

Seeing the images of Cyclone Gabrielle and people suffering that similar isolation this year struck a chord with the Wellington-based road biking fanatic, so she gathered her team of 14 plucky cyclists and set off on a 700km trip in seven days raising nearly $7000 for one of Hawke’s Bay’s most affected communities.

Amy-lou Turner and a dedicated crew from across New Zealand raised just under $7000 for Hawke's Bay Cyclone recovery from completing a 700km bike ride. Photo / Peter Cockrem
Amy-lou Turner and a dedicated crew from across New Zealand raised just under $7000 for Hawke’s Bay Cyclone recovery from completing a 700km bike ride. Photo / Peter Cockrem

“I just wanted to give something back to New Zealand. I came here just before Covid happened, and I felt like I was displaced from my own home because I couldn’t head back, she said.

“New Zealand was this amazing safe haven. When I saw all the stuff happening in Hawke’s Bay, I thought about how those people had lost their safe haven, and that really affected me.”

At 8am on February 17, the group set off from Henley Lake, Masterton, for their epic challenge, appropriately named Tour Aroha.

“I decided to call the event Tour Aroha because the cyclone hit on Valentine’s Day and because I wanted to spread the aroha to the people of Hawkes Bay,” Turner said.

14 riders made the big trip on some of Hawke's Bay's most unforgiving roads. Photo / Tim Bedford
14 riders made the big trip on some of Hawke’s Bay’s most unforgiving roads. Photo / Tim Bedford

The group first went from Masterton to Palmerston North and then towards the Rangitikei River to Taihape. They then traversed the “un” Gentle Annie’s to Napier, following Route 52 back to Masterton to complete the loop.

They aimed to raise money for the Bay View Community Charitable Trust, a community trust covering the regions of Esk Valley, Tangoio, Whirinaki, and Bay View, which were devastated by the flooding.

“I’ve met a lot of people in New Zealand through cycling and bike touring who were really supportive to me during Covid, and it seemed like a community that liked to give back, so it seemed like an obvious place to start.”

Participating riders came from across the North Island, such as Hamilton, New Plymouth, Rotorua, Napier, Auckland and Wellington.

One of them was Aucklander Ian Denby, an ex-William Colenso student who grew up in Hawke’s Bay and wanted to do something tangible to help aid cyclone recovery.

“You only have to be nine parts mad,” he joked.

He said that having grown up in the region, his heart went out to those suffering in Esk Valley, recalling how tight the community was.

“When I saw the devastation myself, TV just doesn’t do it justice. It was quite haunting; the house behind the church was a mate’s place.”

Denby was the biggest individual fundraiser raising $2280.

“I thought, what’s required is big machinery and what can one office worker in Auckland with a wheelbarrow do? The motivation for it came from knowing many in Auckland who would gladly help restore people’s lives.”

People wanting to contribute to the cause still donate: Tour Aroha – fundraising page – Givealittle

Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in January 2023. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.

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