Martine Rolls: Bay delights should be more accessible

By Martine Rolls

18 comments


It's understandable that healthy people who happily live their lives don't suddenly think about what life is like for less-abled people.

My parents came to New Zealand with me in 1999. It was the first time I visited, and I fell in love with Tauranga and the Bay, but my parents didn't enjoy their stay as much as they should have.

We had a lot of rain, which is a bummer if you have spent a fortune on a trip of a lifetime, but the main reason was that we had no idea how inaccessible this town is for people in wheelchairs.

No strolls on the beach or bush walks for my dad, who had a stroke at 48 and had to use a wheelchair to get around from that moment on.

Even going for a walk with him was difficult, as we encountered footpaths that ended half way down the track, steep hills, dangerous crossings, and a bunch of other inconveniences that abled-bodied people hardly worry about.

It was a mission, but at least we didn't try to get on a bus.

Did you read the recent stories in our paper on people with disabilities who have been refused travel on Bay Hopper buses? How disgusting.

There's something else that irks me at the moment and it also has to do with accessibility.

It's the campaign against a boardwalk along Pilot Bay.

There is an action group of people who feel Pilot Bay should be kept in its natural state. They are worried a boardwalk would change the ambience of the area and make it less attractive to families.

There is a Facebook page called "Say No to the Pilot Bay Boardwalk" and I've received invites from several people to get involved.

As I would have loved to have taken my dad for a stroll along Pilot Bay, and a boardwalk would have made that possible, there is no way I'd say no to the idea.

Pilot Bay Coast Care Group chairman Leigh Pettigrew said in his guest editorial in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend: "We would like to save as much of the grassed area as possible for recreational use, placing a boardwalk in the worn areas only (where re-grassing is not going to work) and put a lot more effort into maintenance of the existing grass."

I guess that would be a bit like those footpaths I mentioned earlier, the ones that don't lead to anywhere. Have you ever tried to push a wheelchair through bumpy grass?

When we posted the story "Backlash to boardwalk at Pilot Bay" on bayofplentytimes.co.nz last week and asked for our readers to comment, a huge discussion fired up.

If you read it right, you'll see that this debate is about locals who feel the council doesn't listen to them.

That shines through much more than the reasons vented against the actual boardwalk itself.

Mr Pettigrew also said: "Unfortunately, the council chose to vote on the plan first and consult the public second, so all debate may be pointless."

What I find most interesting about the ongoing debate on our website and on Facebook is that at least three or four of the people who are making a big deal of opposing this boardwalk are keen to keep, or gain, a spot on the local council (please note - I'm not referring to Mr Pettigrew).

There are local body elections this year, right?

Sorry, but you're not getting my support on this one as I am all for a boardwalk along the full length of Pilot Bay.

Okay, 3m is wide but as far as I can see there will be plenty of space left for picnicking, sunbathing, running around and other types of family fun.

Call me ill-advised if you like, but I really see no reason for any of the concerns mentioned, except perhaps the cost for the ratepayers.

Improvement is what I call it.

I don't see how it would take away the opportunity to enjoy the natural surroundings.

Pilot Bay is a stunning spot and I think a boardwalk would make the area even better. That it will finally be accessible for less-abled people is the cherry on top.


 

- Bay of Plenty Times

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