When Wellington's Glenys Tunley read comments made by Tararua District Councillor Peter Johns regarding personal safety on the Waihi Falls track, she was incensed.

District councillors were discussing the safety of the track when Johns said, "if people fall over it's their fault."

After reading the report, Tunley wrote to the Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis.

"I was incensed that anyone would think that such a fall was my fault. I certainly did not set out to injure myself on that day," she told the Dannevirke News.


Tunley asked for Johns to be censured for what she considers to be an ill-conceived comment and a public apology made.

Now, Collis and her councillors have distanced themselves from the comments made by Johns.

Collis said Johns expressed his personal opinion in the public council meeting, but it is not shared by herself or fellow councillors.

"The Tararua District Council is fully committed to health and safety in all council activities," she said.

"With Waihi Falls promoted as a tourist attraction in our district and attracting more visitors, we look forward to the Fame Group concept plan which will address both safety and enhance the area."

Tunley's accident occurred just over six years ago when she was staying in the Dannevirke area and was taken on a trip to Waihi Falls.

She reported the accident to the district council at the time and received a phone call from then mayor Roly Ellis.

"I have been back to Dannevirke several times since then but have never been back to Waihi Falls and probably never will," she said.


"My fall was an unfortunate accident and I am disappointed anyone and particularly a district councillor whose council is responsible for the maintenance of the Waihi Falls path, would suggest it was my fault.

"I was unsure of the terrain so wore appropriate footwear. I was with two other people and my companions were ahead of me as I made my way slowly and carefully down the uneven track.

"I remember thinking I would rather be walking up than down and wished there was something to hold on to. Sometime after that I heard my companions calling me as they came looking for me.

"I had lost my footing on some loose stones on the path and ended up over the bank. I was knocked out, unsure for how long, and came to lodged against a tree which had either been felled or had blown down at some stage. Had that tree not been there I would have probably rolled right down the bank and into the water."

Fortunately, Tunley did not break any limbs, but she did hurt her neck and was in excruciating pain.

"We managed to get back to the car and I was taken to the Dannevirke Medical Centre for treatment," she said.

"We found there was no cellphone coverage had we had to call the emergency services.

"As I lived alone, the lady I was staying with insisted I remain with her until I became more mobile. I could barely move my head for the first few days and getting food into my mouth was difficult. I had physiotherapy treatment in Dannevirke and then the maximum allowed by ACC on my return home. I wore a neck brace for some weeks and found travelling in a vehicle very uncomfortable when the road was bumpy. Even walking jarred my neck.

"The end result is that my neck is permanently damaged and I will have this problem for the rest of my life. Driving a car is not as easy as it was and I also have to make sure I sit in the correct position when talking to people so I can make eye contact. I cannot look over either shoulder and have to turn my body to look behind me. I am also very anxious about walking down steep paths and steps."

Tunley said she has brought this matter to the current council's attention to emphasise how important it is that public access ways are always well maintained, in order to avoid any future incidents of this kind.

"I hope the council is able to improve the track to the falls so that others may safely access what appears to be a lovely scenic feature," she said.

Council staff have carried out immediate remedial action, including sweeping the loose chip on the path and removing debris, and new signs which outline potential hazards have been ordered.

Johns has told the Dannevirke News what he intended to say was that council needed to be careful about what they build on the track, citing the Cave Creek disaster.

"People need to be responsible for their own safety on what is essentially a bush track, but now, with Waihi Falls becoming a tourist attraction, building structures and maintaining them will become a major responsibility for council," he said.