A Different Light - Northern Advocate - Saturday 29th April, 2017 'What must be harder still is if you are a wheelchair user needing an accessible house'.

LONG WEEKENDS - aren't they great? I'm getting far too used to them following the two recent respites.

I did what a lot of us did last Monday and took the day off to join up the dots. We went to the Waitangi Copthorne.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with the Waitangi Copthorne. It's so essentially Northland.

It's also got a blatant inaccessible feature that makes my toes curl every time I visit.

The outdoor courtyard and the palm-shrouded pool area is very resort-like.

This outdoor feature is at the core of the charm and point of difference which make this place one of the most iconic hotels in Tai Tokerau.

The only way, however, for a wheelchair user to access the courtyard, pool or bar is to go several hundred metres down towards the boat yard through the back gate and then back several hundred metres over grass to this glistening oasis.

While there is a temporary ramp that the staff can put in place, which sits over the top of the stairs going into the bar, it is very steep and cumbersome.

It also makes a spectacle of the wheelchair user and tramples on their mana.

I have been with a colleague who is a wheelchair user at a conference at Waitangi Copthorne where this has happened and it is embarrassingly drawn out spectacle for everyone involved.

I see that the New Zealand Federation of Disability Information Centres (or NZFDIC for short) is holding its conference there in the near future. How does that work?

I have relatively recently written a letter to the Tai Tokerau Maori Trust Board which owns 51per cent of the hotel.

I have been banging on about this for years now, and I remain awaiting their response with glacial anticipation.

The hotel was chocka last weekend, running at capacity.

Apparently a lot of motels in Whangarei are also running at capacity and it's not because of people taking advantage of an elongated weekend.

The Auckland housing crisis overflowed into Whangarei a while ago.

People moving back home or simply moving to the lighter side from Auckland are still experiencing hardship when it comes to finding suitable housing.

Motels are doing well out of the situation, but must be hard for families, to say the least.
What must be harder still is if you are a wheelchair user needing an accessible house.

I know that accessible rentals in Whangarei are like hens' teeth, but what is hard to establish is exactly what the demand is.

The Whangarei Accessible Housing Trust is a great organisation which builds accessible houses and rents them out at an affordable rate.

They're full, at capacity as well.

I asked the Trust a little while ago what the demand is.

They pointed me to the Ministry of Social Development who pointed me to Housing NZ.

I know there is an issue because I have been supporting an individual who is trying to move from an overcrowded boarding situation to her own rental accommodation.

The process for her just to get on a waiting list seemed incredibly arduous, let alone finding an accessible rental.

Unfortunately the lack of accessible housing hasn't attracted the media attention that the plight of other homeless sectors of society have.

It seems to me that, at the moment, to get any media attention at all, you have to generate a disquiet, a disruption, something inappropriate.

Speaking of which, there was a small anti-war protest at one of the Anzac parades on Tuesday. This attracted a fair bit of media attention on the AM Show.

There was a clip of a young boy who vented his disapproval at the protesters. He harangued the protesters in a rather stentorious manner, saying: "It's totally inappropriate to protest on this day, it's just wrong, wrong, wrong!"

So here's the thing about protesting, folks, it's MEANT TO BE INAPPROPRIATE, THAT'S THE WHOLE POINT OF PROTESTING.

It is designed to be confronting and uncomfortable, in order to spark different ways of looking at things.

Now, getting access to the full range of facilities at an iconic hotel . . . this is not meant to be confronting and uncomfortable.

That, my self-righteous young friend, is truly wrong, wrong, wrong and decidedly "inappropriate".

Read online at the Northern Advocate.

Downloadable pdf below:

Available Downloads Type Size
The last RESORT? pdf 287 KB

Published 05/05/2017

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