Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Walkway closure rethink after drunks attack elderly couple

Bob and Margaret Gabolinscy were assaulted at their Weka St property in Tokoroa on Thursday night. Photo / Christine Cornege
Bob and Margaret Gabolinscy were assaulted at their Weka St property in Tokoroa on Thursday night. Photo / Christine Cornege

The South Waikato District Council is vowing to reconsider closing the walkway between Weka Place and Balmoral Drive after a serious assault there on an elderly couple last week.

Tokoroa couple Bob and Margaret Gabolinscy were at their Weka Place home on Thursday night when they heard three people vandalising the corrugated fence separating their home and the walkway.

Mr Gabolinscy told the men in their late teens and early 20s to stop and they hurled full cans of alcoholic drinks at him, leaving a gash on his head.

Mrs Gabolinscy then went up to them and told then to go away and was punched in the eye.

The couple, in their 70s, are blaming the council for the assault because they say they have been asking for the poorly-lit walkway to be closed since 2006 and are sick of the constant vandalism, broken glass and noise that comes from it.

The Gabolinscys have been overwhelmed by support from the community and said the council had no option but to close it.

South Waikato Mayor Neil Sinclair visited the couple on Saturday and Mrs Gabolinscy raised her concerns with him again.

"I said, 'Neil you can go home tonight; I can't sleep easy in my bed anymore because of the right-of-way'.

"This time Bob and I could have been killed. I was attacked by a big man on drugs and drink ... . I'm an old lady and I want some peace and quiet."

Mr Sinclair was appalled by the behaviour of the "despicable louts" and said the council would again look at closing the walkway.

But he felt the more important action was for the Government to push through the Alcohol Reform Bill which would give councils the power to crack down on under-age drinking and get young drunks off the streets.

"We've got to get rid of that 1 per cent of horrible, nasty young people who get alcohol in them and attack old people."

In 2008, a survey was carried out on the district's walkways, which included measuring usage, speaking to police about antisocial behaviour and gaining support for closures.

As a result of the survey, the council resolved to close four walkways but Weka Place was not identified as a priority at the time.

South Waikato District Council spokeswoman Kerry Fabrie said closing the walkway was "not a simple procedure".

It would cost the council between $7500 and $12,000.

The closure could not go ahead if it didn't get the support of all the residents and in some cases it required the neighbouring residents to purchase the land as the council couldn't legally just put a gate across it.

Tokoroa was built as a walkway town and has about 50 walkways that link to schools or parks.

- NZ Herald

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