Don’t sell users short

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION -

When Kapi-mana News at­tended a meet­ing of stake­hold­ers early last year to ad­dress crime in Whitby’s vil­lage cen­tre, the fu­ture of the skate park was dis­cussed.

We got the im­pres­sion find­ing it a new home – should its present lo­ca­tion not fit with the loom­ing su­per­mar­ket de­vel­op­ment next to Ad­ven­ture Park – would be a tough ask.

No­body wanted a skate park as a neigh­bour, such was the stigma of it be­ing a mag­net for young trou­ble­mak­ers.

Porirua City Coun­cil has saved it­self a headache with the terms of its land use li­cence to Food­stuffs, ex­pected to be granted to­mor­row night.

The li­cence will al­low Food­stuffs shared use of the Ad­ven­ture Park car park and ac­cess to the su­per­mar­ket from Dis­cov­ery Dr. It will also make the skate park Food­stuffs’ re­spon­si­bil­ity.

The good news for skate­board, scooter and BMX riders is there will be a skate park – Food­stuffs is re­quired to ei­ther mod­ify the ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity or build a new one nearby.

The pre­ferred site is on re­serve land north of the bowl­ing club, close to Dis­cov­ery Dr.

How­ever, it is un­clear what in­volve­ment, if any, skate park users will have in the decision-mak­ing process.

The 3000-square-me­tre su­per­mar­ket and its link­ages to the mall through Ad­ven­ture Park should be an ex­cit­ing and re­ju­ve­nat­ing de­vel­op­ment of Whitby’s vil­lage cen­tre. But Food­stuffs’ skate park pro­posal is still to be fi­nalised.

We are told the com­pany has con­sulted skate park users, but only to the ex­tent users were ‘‘happy’’ to learn the park would be en­hanced or re­placed.

In re­cent years when the city coun­cil has re­vamped a skate park (Pukerua Bay) or play­ground (Aotea La­goon), it has done a great job of en­gag­ing young user groups, in­clud­ing in­put on equip­ment de­sign.

Will Whitby kids still be af­forded the same level of en­gage­ment and re­spect when a pri­vate com­pany is call­ing the shots?

It would be un­for­tu­nate if the poor rep­u­ta­tion of the skate park dulls the coun­cil’s or Food­stuffs’ re­spon­sive­ness to the needs of the skate park users.

No doubt there are a few bad ap­ples, and I’m more guilty than most when it comes to face­tiously blam­ing ‘‘ Whitby youth’’ for ev­ery sub­ur­ban ill un­der the sun, whether it be a car en­gine roar­ing late at night, a rub­bish bin top­pling over, or a bag of dog poo hang­ing in a tree. (What’s with that?)

But se­ri­ously, what adults see as ‘‘loi­ter­ing’’ at the skate park is usu­ally kids just hang­ing out.

And as an ‘‘in­for­mal sport’’ user – as de­scribed in the coun­cil re­port – skate park users don’t have the col­lec­tive clout of an or­gan­ised sport when it comes to mak­ing their pres­ence and needs known.

Here’s hop­ing Food­stuffs’ makes the ef­fort to in­volve them in the process and give them a sense of own­er­ship in the skate park.

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