Wayne Thompson

Wayne Thompson is a NZ Herald reporter.

Shelter helper back on job

By WAYNE THOMPSON

George Shierny, veteran campaigner for bus users' comfort, and two carpenter mates set out yesterday to prove that the hammer is mightier than the politician's pen.

A rainswept bus stop outside the Auckland Town Hall was picked by Mr Shierny as a just cause for breaking a decade of retirement from shaming city councils into providing bus shelters.

"The council has done nothing about it, so we will do it for all the old people who wait out in the cold and rain," he said.

At 11 o'clock, Mr Shierny's rented ute, laden with building materials, pulled up at the Town Hall bus stop.

Buckling on well-worn chippies' leather aprons, Mr Shierny, 81, and former workmates Walter "Snow" White, 83, and Ray Marshall, 78, got to work with their claw hammers.

Twenty minutes later, a solid four-seat shelter - white, wooden and weathertight - was standing proudly in front of the stone walls of the Town Hall.

Two cedar louvre doors served for the ends, and plastic board lined the walls for easy cleaning.

"These were supposed to be for a new pantry I'd promised to build for my wife, Agnes," quipped Mr Shierny, as he wiped raindrops from his nose.

A green carpet added a touch of plush comfort and wooden carvings decorated the eaves, under a rooftop sign saying "The John Banks Bus Shelter".

Cheered by compliments from bus passengers and passersby, Mr Shierny then went into the Town Hall to invite Mayor Banks to see the shelter. Mr Banks' staff said he was away until Monday.

"Oh, well, we've had a bit of fun," Mr Shierny said to Mr White. "Everybody smiles when they pass."

And in the mayor's absence, city council transport committee chairman Greg McKeown came to see the shelter and listen to Mr Shierny.

The North Shore man told him he was worried that the council would stop providing bus shelters as part of its economy drive.

The council had been doing a good job in increasing the number of shelters, he said, but a lot more were needed.

The Town Hall shelter was a good example because it was used by people heading for the Ferry Terminal, Downtown and the railway station.

"It's not decent to spend millions on new highways while old people stand out in the rain and cold."

Mr McKeown said that if the council had made a mistake in the placing of shelters, then Mr Shierny's actions were a good way of being heard.

But the council had a policy of increasing the number of shelters.

It had an agreement under which Adshel New Zealand built 140 shelters a year for three years.

The council was also spending $187,000 on extra shelters and bus information.

Mr Shierny said he hoped Mr Banks could officially open the shelter. "I'll even bring along a bottle of wine."

Mr Shierny's shelter shock tactics have been winners in the past with the city's mayors.

One he built in Mayoral Drive in 1987 captured the heart of Dame Catherine Tizard, who had a council shelter which replaced it named after him.

In 1991, Les Mills officially opened another one of Mr Shierny's creations in Victoria St.

A council spokesman said a meeting with Mr Shierny today would discuss taking the shelter away.

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