Getting to the gym at the Whangarei Aquatic Centre has turned into a work out in itself for Ton van der Sluis. Ten years ago he suffered a medical misadventure which left two-thirds of his spinal cord damaged.

Partially paralysed from the chest down, Ton managed to get walking again and has been attending the CLM Health and Fitness Centre at the Whangarei Aquatic Centre for six years. But now he may have to stop because the 60-metre trek from the carpark to the centre’s reception is just too far, even from the spaces for people with disabilities.

The problem has arisen from a redevelopment in which the aquatic centre reception and carpark were relocated. “If I do my exercise and I’m buggered and I have to go back to my car I can hardly make it,” says Ton. “Even walking across a road is quite a distance for me to go.” Ton says he isn’t the only one struggling with the distance from the carpark to the reception area. Both the fitness and aquatic centres have facilities to help the elderly, those with disabilities and people on
rehabilitation programmes. Ton says he has heard of no plans to improve the situation and if things don’t happen soon he will have to stop going there. “It doesn’t pay me to go, there… there’s no hope for me getting better,” he says.

Disability Sector Reference Group chairwoman
Va-nassa McGoldrick says the problem has been brought to the attention of Sport Northland,which administers the aquatic centre. Several meetings have been held with Sport Northland, the disability group and the Whangarei District Council and plans to correct the problem are under way, she says. “It’s definitely not on the back burner.” However, no time frame has been set for when closer parks might be established. In the meantime a bench seat has been installed halfway up the path to the reception, providing a place to rest and alleviating the problem for many people.

Story and photo courtsey of LYNDA DANLBERG, Reporter for the Whangarei Leader

Published 01/05/2007

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