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$15k secures wheelchair access to Mount beach

mount beach

Mount Maunganui looks set to become the first New Zealand beach to provide a mat enabling waterfront access for people in wheelchairs.

The community challenge to raise $15,000 to provide a wheelchair-friendly access mat has been met. The challenge to other businesses and organisations was issued by Metro Marketing’s managing director Michelle Whitmore late last year.

Tauranga City Council community development advisor Dani Jurgeleit said the $15,000 had been raised through sponsorship from Metro Marketing, Harbour City Lions, and an anonymous donor. The council was now finalising the operational logistics around the mat’s placement and storage.

“Council is very supportive of this initiative which will get people with mobility challenges down on to the beach, and we are incredibly grateful for this sponsorship”.

The $15,000 enabled the purchase of 60m of matting, sufficient to stretch from the dunes to the water’s edge.

Ms Whitmore said while this was a great result, more could be achieved.

“We are on the way to becoming not only the best beach, but the most accessible beach in the country. And the project doesn’t have to stop here, there’s the opportunity to add more matting,” she said.

Ms Jurgeleit said further donations were welcome. Additional mat options included enabling a greater turn-around and sitting area at the water’s edge, or having “branches” off the main mat.

There was also the possibility the mat could be used elsewhere – for example, at Anzac Day services at Memorial Park, where some elderly attendees were in wheelchairs.

Tauranga was introduced to the mat early in December when it was rolled out at Mount Maunganui as a trial. The mat was 1.5m wide, was made of polyester, and worked well on soft sand and undulating services.

Tauranga tetraplegic Amanda Lowry, who has two young daughters, was at the weekend trial in December.

Ms Lowry said she was eagerly awaiting the day when the mat would be in place.

“I want the opportunity to get some sand in my togs and lie there next to my kids. It’s not just about disabilities, it’s about everyone. It’s about living a full life with no restrictions – no barriers. It’s about being on the beach and celebrating what it is to be a Kiwi,” she said.

Ms Jurgeleit said the beach access mat would benefit so many in the community.

“It’s not just for wheelchairs. It is great for those with mobility scooters, walkers and strollers, and kids with autism who don’t necessarily like sand between their toes, for example. We would encourage people from rest homes to come and use it too,” she said.

There was the possibility another open day would be held, giving people the opportunity to come and see what the mat was all about.

Since Metro Marketing’s beach mat funding challenge received media attention, the council has been contacted by people from throughout New Zealand keen to also introduce beach access mats.

Halberg Trust Disability sport adviser Cherryl Thompson confirmed the Mount Maunganui project would represent the first beach access mat in New Zealand.

- People keen to get behind the project are encouraged to contact Tauranga City Council Project Tauranga manager Michael Vujnovich on michael.vujnovich@tauranga.govt.nz.