Good ac­ces­si­bil­ity wanted

Auckland City Harbour News - - FRONT PAGE - By LAU­REN PRI­EST­LEY

THERE are fears the old and dis­abled could be shut out of thou­sands of Auck­land build­ings.

The Build­ing (Earth­quake-prone Build­ings) Amend­ment Bill 2013 is on the list of bills to be read in Par­lia­ment next week.

It could pave the way for build­ing con­sents to be granted to about 20,000 earth­quake-prone shops, work­places and res­i­den­tial build­ings na­tion­wide with­out re­quir­ing usual up­grades for dis­abil­ity ac­cess.

It could af­fect more than 4000 Auck­land build­ings.

CCS Dis­abil­ity Ac­tion bar­rier free ad­viser Vi­vian Nay­lor, in a wheel­chair since a car ac­ci­dent at 24, says it is a back­wards step.

The leg­is­la­tion is based on cost­cut­ting and is short-sighted, the Auck­land woman, 69, says.

There are af­ford­able ways to make build­ings ac­ces­si­ble, she says.

‘‘Th­ese build­ings are go­ing to be with us a long time; it doesn’t make sense.

‘‘It’s frus­trat­ing in the ex­treme. We start to think we’re mak­ing progress and then we’re slip­ping back again.’’

Grey Power Auck­land pres­i­dent Anne-Marie Coury says ac­ces­si­bil­ity is also a con­cern for older gen­er­a­tions.

Stairs, heavy doors, poor light­ing and slip­pery sur­faces can all pose prob­lems and more el­derly are now us­ing mo­bil­ity scoot­ers, she says.

Ms Coury says the changes will also have a neg­a­tive im­pact on the way New Zealand is seen by other coun­tries.

‘‘A huge pro­por­tion of our tourists are over 60. Peo­ple will be as­sess­ing how good ac­cess is and word will spread.’’

Clint Owens, spokesman for Build­ing and Con­struc­tion Min­is­ter Mau­rice Wil­liamson, says there is a long way to go in the process.

The bill, in­tro­duced as a re­sult of the Can­ter­bury earth­quakes, looks to unify New Zealand coun­cils’ ap­proach to earth­quake strength­en­ing, Mr Owens says.

It is about mak­ing log­i­cal de­ci­sions on a case-by-case ba­sis, he says.

‘‘It’s not to say that noth­ing will be done in terms of ac­ces­si­bil­ity but in some cir­cum­stances coun­cils will be able to ex­empt peo­ple if it’s go­ing to cost too much.

‘‘There’ll be a prag­matic ap­proach to this if it comes through.’’

If the bill passes its first read­ing it will go to a select com­mit­tee to be con­sid­ered in more de­tail and a public sub­mis­sion phase.

Peo­ple’s voices will be heard, Mr Owens says.

Ms Nay­lor is tak­ing part in a wider gov­ern­ment dis­abil­ity ac­cess re­view in her po­si­tion with Royal Oak or­gan­i­sa­tion CCS.

She says New Zealand should be fol­low­ing the lead of other cities such as Mel­bourne or Lon­don which are com­pletely ac­ces­si­ble.

‘‘If there’s a big old two-storey build­ing in an old sub­urb there’s no way you’re go­ing to put a lift in it. We want to know about the four­storey build­ings that could have a lift and don’t or should have an ac­ces­si­ble en­trance and won’t.

‘‘When there’s an op­por­tu­nity to do it, why not?’

Be Ac­ces­si­ble chief ex­ec­u­tive Min­nie Barag­wanath says it is about for­ward think­ing.

‘‘New Zealand has the chance to be a coun­try that ac­tu­ally thrives with an age­ing pop­u­la­tion be­cause we’ve de­signed a world that works for ev­ery­one, not an in­ac­ces­si­ble one.’’


Big is­sue:

Vi­vian Nay­lor says ac­ces­si­bil­ity is im­por­tant for ev­ery­body.

Lit­tle things: Anne-Marie Coury says even steps can pose a real ac­cess is­sue for older peo­ple.

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