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Footpaths not fit for wheelchairs

By Hayley Gastmeier

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A Featherston wheelchair user says the town’s footpaths are in such a bad state he is forced to travel on busy roads to get around.

Leslie Austin addressed the town’s uneven surfaces and non-existent footpaths at the Featherston Community Board (FCB) meeting on Tuesday night.

“I’ve found difficulty getting around in a wheelchair, [with] the state of the roads, the state of the footpaths, and also the streets that you just can’t go down.”

In June he broached the issue with Lee Carter, who was then board chair.

Mrs Carter, now a South Wairarapa District councillor, went out with Mr Austin on “a tour of Featherston”, including to the main shopping area, to the doctor and to the railway station.

“By coming around with somebody in a wheel chair we could share things that I experience and the things that she observed,” said Mr Austin, who lives on Waite St.

On his home street there are areas with no footpaths, meaning at times to get from ‘a to b’ he must travel along the road.

At the meeting at Kiwi Hall, Mr Austin talked about how he had once fallen from his chair while entering one of the town’s pedestrian crossings, due to the steep gradient.

Another “major area” of concern for Mr Austin was getting from the shops to the Featherston Train Station.

“From the supermarket, going past the police station, you get to the end of the footpath and there’s no ramp so a wheelchair would fall over and I would injure myself,” he said.

“I have to go on the road all the way to the railway station because the grass verge… is totally unsuitable for wheelchairs.

“When you go onto it at one end the gradient is not friendly, and when you get to the other end there’s a gutter, an obstacle.

“Why is there not some better way of going all the way to the railway station?”

Mr Austin said using the road to get around was at times “frightening”, depending on the amount of traffic and the speed at which it travelled.

Due to a report prepared by Mrs Carter following the excursion, the Featherston Library is undergoing works to make it wheelchair accessible.

Mr Austin said there were also problematic footpaths in Greytown, Masterton, Upper Hutt, and Wellington, and uneven surfaces also presented problems for scooter users and prams.

SWDC chief executive Paul Crimp said the FCB had a budget from which they could prioritize spending on footpaths.

This was the second time the issue of the town’s footpaths was raised to the board.

In August, the board resolved to hold a workshop to identify and prioritise the problem areas.

FCB chairwoman Brenda West said those at the top of the list would be looked at first, with the rest to be incorporated into the Long Term Plan.

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