An event planned for ASB Arena next March is set to take disabled sport to a new level on the wider sporting scene.

Organisers of the Bayfair Festival of Disabled Sport hope it will become an annual event of local and national significance.

Ange Wallace says plans are for the festival to become "the AIMS games of disabled sport".

"It will be a real fixture on the disabled sport calendar. We have every intention of blowing it out of the park."


At least 100 physically disabled athletes from throughout the country will compete in four codes — wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, blind sports and boccia (similar to bowls and petanque). Registrations open in January.

Participants will range from elite Paralympians to grass-root competitors, with teams formed at the event. The festival will be as much about the social aspect as winning competitions.

Parafed executive officer Ian McDonald says the event is designed to showcase disability sport and what is available to athletes.

"What was also important to our board was they wanted to partner with other organisations that are in the disability sport sector as well. So at the event we are having in March we are partnering with the national bodies of wheelchair basketball, wheelchair rugby and boccia plus Tauranga Blind Sport," he said.

"They will come and hold tournaments on site during the weekend and we will promote it and develop it. Also at the ASB Arena on the Sunday, Paralympics and ACC are going to hold an open day that will showcase disability sport."

Parafed Bay of Plenty board member Neil Cudby, who coaches the Tauranga wheelchair rugby team the Steamrollers, says community excitement and support is growing.

"We're creating a storm. This is fantastic as sport makes such a difference — an exponential difference," he said. "An event like this can help leverage us in the community, assisting Parafed in gaining a greater following."

Tauranga wheelchair rugby player Glenn McDonald is looking forward to the festival.
He became a tetraplegic as a result of a car accident when he was 18 and the father of four says being a member of the Steamrollers for the past five years has meant a lot to him.

"The camaraderie is great. It's about sport and the support network. It's a good outlet for some physical roughness and aggression. As a tetra you don't get a lot of that in life as people wrap you in cotton wool," McDonald said.

"When I come along to play wheelchair rugby everyone else is in wheelchairs too so I am the normal and that's nice."

Legacy Trust has gifted $10,000 to the organisation of the games.

Co-organiser Wallace says the benefit of that goes beyond the financial realm.

"All those involved have a vision that this festival can be top notch. Having Legacy Trust showing support so early in the piece gave us confidence to continue to think big. We have a festival family, and Legacy Trust has been welcomed into it."

The Bayfair Festival of Disabled Sport will include an awards night, with Tauranga tetraplegic Amanda Lowry to be the festival's ambassador.