A DIFFERENT LIGHT

When writing a column it is helpful to be topical and relevant. Sometimes that can be a challenge when you're writing it days in advance.

Today's news is indeed tomorrow's fish and chip paper in a Northland summer.
And like a Northland summer, things are hard to predict.

Yes, I'm talking weather. As I write this, weather forecasters are vacillating over tropical Cyclone Oma. The meteorological gurus don't know whether a cyclone will hit Northland on Saturday.

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It just so happens that we (Tiaho Trust) are holding our annual Ruakaka Surf Day. This is a day where people with disabilities get to have a go at surfing. Get to catch a wave. Get to feel like a million bucks as water rushes towards them, as they skim forward towards the beach.

This is the sixth time we've held the event and it's always a great day. It's a luau. Everyone has a smile on their face, participants and volunteers alike.

Vintage surfer, Gary Butt, who is the key person behind these surf days, travels down from the Far North in his own time and expense to give young folks with disabilities a chance to share in his favourite sport.

Gary, who has run these events all over New Zealand, is philosophical about the weather.

"Well people are going to get wet anyway," he says. "If it's really bad, people can have a sausage. It's still a good day out".

Gary is very positive, but this year the forecast is particularly grim.

Disability surf day hero Gary Butt celebrates with Joshua Lilburn after that lad's ride.
Disability surf day hero Gary Butt celebrates with Joshua Lilburn after that lad's ride.

I'm still fretting. Even though we have never yet cancelled a Surf Day, despite holding one only days after an ex-tropical cyclone, this could be different. This could be intense.

A gem from recent weather forecasts include: "If Tropical Cyclone Oma collides with New Zealand the destruction will be devastating and similar to that of Cyclones Fehi and Gita."

Crikey, that does not sound good!

And: "However, predictions are still unclear as to where the slow-moving system is tracking, and it will be another two days until forecasters can say with some certainty what will happen".

What is clear at this stage is that it's really unclear.

Oma (which means "run" in te Reo) might hover around Aussie and do a u-turn and run back to where it came from. Or it might run straight bang into Northland, connecting with another system and unleashing its fury.

So when you are reading this, think of us and take note of the weather. Will we be having our usual fabulous day with disabled people having a total blast in the water? Or will we be hunkered down taking shelter from Mother Nature at the Ruakaka Surf Clubrooms, huddled over sausages. Or will Oma have had made us cancel the whole enchilada - for the first time in six years.

Time - and quite possibly tide - will tell.


Jonny Wilkinson is the CEO of Tiaho Trust - Disability A Matter of Perception, a Whangarei based disability advocacy organisation