Wednesday, 15 August 2018

WHITIANGA WEATHER

Whitianga town centre not the place for skateboard and scooter owners to show off their skills

After months of work, the new-look Whitianga CBD is starting to take shape. There are new paving, street furniture, trees and flowerbeds and even “Jupiter globes.” Not only is the Whitianga town centre upgrade aesthetically pleasing, it also seems to be a lot of fun for some skateboard and scooter owners.

There are no rules against skateboarding or scootering around Whitianga, however these activities are starting to cause damage to the new objects in the town centre - particularly the street furniture and the Jupiter globes.

Chris Devenoges, a local computer programmer and keen skateboarder, is the driving force behind a new Whitianga skatepark. He can understand why skateboarders and people riding scooters are attracted to the Whitianga town centre. “Downtown Whitianga, right now, is more attractive for skateboarding and scootering than the existing Whitianga skatepark in Taylor’s mistake, which says everything about the state of the existing skatepark,” says Chris. “The concrete is cracked and rough. Downtown sets the bar high for the ‘street’ portion of a new skatepark.”

Thames-Coromandel District Council has set aside some money for a new Whitianga skatepark in their Long Term Plan 2018 - 2028, but the community will have to raise a significant portion of the funds that will ultimately be required to develop the new skatepark. Chris and some of his friends, who are also keen skateboarders, have recently established a trust, the “Mercury Bay Skatepark Trust,” to oversee the community fundraising efforts.

Skateboarding and scootering in the Whitianga town centre is an issue that goes further than just damage to public property. Someone may get hurt if there are too many people using skateboards, scooters and even bicycles in areas that are earmarked to be used by pedestrians.

Andrew Boden, TCDC project manager for the Whitianga town centre upgrade, says it is more appropriate for skateboard and scooter owners to use the existing Whitianga skatepark, as opposed to the street furniture and Jupiter globes in the town centre, to show off or improve on their skills.

“The intent of the Whitianga town centre upgrade is to make the CBD more pedestrian and accessibility friendly - with wider footpaths and narrower roads - for things like mobility scooters, wheelchairs and prams,” says Andrew.

“When it comes to skateboard and scooter owners, the existing Whitianga skatepark - and the new skatepark when it is developed - is where we continue to encourage and promote skateboarding and scootering, not on footpaths and pavements.

“There will be a report going to the Mercury Bay Community Board at their 22 August meeting which includes the proposed location and concept design illustration of a new Whitianga skatepark. If approved, the community can start to work on fundraising and a detailed design. Implementation of the new skatepark is currently in year two [2020] of TCDC’s Long Term Plan 2018 - 2028.

“Meanwhile, anyone using skateboards or scooters recklessly or in a manner which may intimidate, be dangerous, be injurious to or cause a nuisance to any person is in breach of TCDC’s public places bylaw.”

John Wright, Mercury Bay Area School principal, has indicated that he is happy to encourage MBAS students to skateboard and scooter at the existing Whitianga skatepark rather than in the Whitianga CBD. “I will positively address the issue at school assemblies and with students individually, if I know who to talk to,” says John. “I am not necessarily going to put any of the students down. I will endeavor to say that they are most probably very talented young people, so my focus will be to guide them to understand that the existing Whitianga skatepark is a more appropriate place for them to have fun than the town centre.”

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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.