Amputee smashes hip, strikes chord with the public
When Wayne Wheeler is walking around Whangarei streets he's more careful than the average pedestrian.
The 66-year-old is an amputee who wears a prosthetic leg after losing the bottom part of his right leg in a hunting accident 30 years ago.
Despite his caution, Mr Wheeler recently snapped the ball off the top of his left hip after slipping and falling on wet pavers in Rathbone St.
And he's not the only one. While the Whangarei District Council has received only four official complaints in the last six months, including Mr Wheeler's, Northern Advocate Facebook followers tell a different story. Within 48 hours more than 900 people commented when questioned if they'd ever slipped on the pavement, most by far saying they had.
Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai has acknowledged the problem and is looking for a solution.
"There is a real problem with these tiles as our own data and the Facebook responses show. I have directed staff to find a solution to this safety issue, even if that means replacing the tiles. I know they are working on their investigations as we speak," she said.
Mr Wheeler, a former army officer and greenstone carver, was walking past NZ Post in Rathbone St in December when he slipped and fell hard on to his left hip.
"I was walking very cautiously and, all of a sudden, I hit the deck. I fell so heavily and so quickly that I broke the ball off the end of my hip.
"Where I fell, my head was about half an inch above the [metal] shop ledge," he said. "[The pain was] worse than having my leg amputated, and I was awake when it got amputated."
A worker from NZ Post rushed out to help Mr Wheeler and called an ambulance. "The worker who helped me said, 'people slipping here is a regular occurrence'."
WDC road maintenance engineer Mike Batchelor said the council was aware of the slipperiness of the pavers - clay bricks that have a hardened surface created during the baking of the clay. "In the past we have used anti-slip products as well as a variety of cleaning products, with limited success," he said.
Mr Wheeler wants to see the pavers pulled up and replaced with less-slippery ones, and pronto. "It really should [be done soon] because winter is coming," he said.
"Come on, council, do the right thing before someone gets killed and that is a likely possibility."