Skateboarders say risk minimal

A skateboarder makes his way down George St, in Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
A skateboarder makes his way down George St, in Dunedin. Photo by Craig Baxter.
Having a bylaw for skateboarders said more about ''boring old fartitis'' on the Dunedin City Council's part than any real risk from skateboarders, a submitter has told a panel of councillors considering a redrafted bylaw.

And a 13-year-old submitter said young people using skateboards as a form of transport felt unsafe using roads and respected other footpath users, and were sometimes themselves sworn at or had food thrown at them.

Kavanagh College pupil Harry Dolan said he saw young people congregating outside shops, but they were not skateboarders, just other kids ''hanging out''.

The bylaw, introduced in 1995 and updated in 2004, was due for 10-yearly review in 2014, but its review was brought forward because of police concerns over the difficulty of enforcing the bylaw and complaints from the public concerned about safety; and complaints from CBD retailers about more skateboarders gathering in the area and putting customers off shopping there.

Council environmental health team leader Ros MacGill noted surveys indicated a significant increase in the number of skaters in the CBD in the past three years.

To address the concerns of police and retailers the council proposed adding to the bylaw the ability for an authorised officer to confiscate skateboards (under the bylaw, police can fine people, but people are not paying the fines) and extend the CBD skateboarding ban to include an extra block, from Frederick St to Albany St, and to include Albion Lane.

Thirty-nine submissions were received on the draft bylaw, nine in support and 30 opposed.

The main concerns of those opposed were the confiscation rule and extending the areas where skating was prohibited.

Thirteen submitters, all opponents, indicated they wished to speak to their submissions at a hearing, but only two turned up to this week's hearing in Dunedin.

Submitter Lindsay Smith said he felt the draft bylaw was attempting to address a non-existent problem, given the few skateboarders in the city and that skateboarding issues were at their height 10 years ago.

Complaints about people whizzing past them said more about people simply being old and scared, rather than any real risk to them, and scooters, mobility scooters, footpath signs and the state of the footpath itself caused more personal injuries than skateboarders did, he said.

Year 8 Kavanagh College pupil Harry Dolan (13) said a lot of young people chose to use skateboards for transport. They did not want to use the road because the injuries to cyclists showed how dangerous it was.

He said he was not sure if the panel was aware that the Dunedin public sometimes disrespected skateboarders, by swearing at them, or throwing food, and he had never seen any skateboarder hit another member of the public or cause anyone an injury.

Panel chairman Cr David Benson-Pope said the bylaw was needed because there needed to be a way to deal efficiently with people that caused problems while skateboarding.

He asked whether confiscation would really make enforcement any more successful, to which Ms MacGill said it was a deterrent that would only be used as last resort, following a warning.

Crs Neville Peat and Kate Wilson expressed disappointment police were not present to support their submission seeking stronger enforcement options, and the panel resolved to adjourn the hearing to seek their attendance at its next meeting.

It would also ask them to bring figures on how many complaints and incidents they dealt with and more details about the issues they experienced trying to enforce the bylaw.

Information and figures on injuries caused by skateboarders would also be sought from St John and ACC for the panel to discuss when it reconvened next year.


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