Skateboard ban 'way over the top'

Keo Morrison (4) rolls along the St Clair Esplanade on his skateboard with other local surfers...
Keo Morrison (4) rolls along the St Clair Esplanade on his skateboard with other local surfers and skateboarders looking on. Photo by Dan Hutchinson.

A long tradition of skateboarding at St Clair Esplanade is about to get a final nail in the coffin from the Dunedin City Council. Star reporter Dan Hutchinson talks to local board riders of all ages and finds a growing dismay at the loss of an important part of their culture.

Surfers and skateboarders say a skateboarding bylaw at St Clair Esplanade is ''way over the top'' and are staking a claim for their right to roll up and check out the waves.

Skateboarding along the Esplanade has been targeted by various Dunedin City Council bylaws since the early 1990s. It was banned in 2005.

The latest proposed change to the bylaw would mean children under 14 years old could have their board confiscated, and pay $50 to get it back. Previously, they faced no penalty because they were too young.

President of the South Coast Boardriders Club, which has its headquarters at the Esplanade, Craig Higgins said he had not noticed large groups of skateboarders there since he was a teenager in 1994 or 1995, when skateboard ramps were banned.

''I have always found that the skateboard culture is part of the surf culture. You are just rolling down there, getting a little bit of practice to warm your legs up, or to go check out the waves.''

Mayor Dave Cull said the latest bylaw still had to come before the council on August 18 and it was ''definitely not in place yet''.

He said there was still a possibility the St Clair ban could even be relaxed but that was a decision for the council.

He had responded to a letter from the group opposing the ban, saying they should make their views known at the public forum before the council meeting.

''It may be that council looks at it and says we won't apply it at St Clair but it is still valid somewhere else. Anything is possible in that regard. It is definitely not in place yet.''

Mr Higgins said skateboards were no different from being on a bike or scooter or any other form of transport and it made more sense to ban cars from the part of the Esplanade where there were no car parks.

St Clair surfer Richard Wingham said he and his children skateboard down ''every day to check out the surf''.

''It is our main form of transport. It is part of the healthy life for our kids that we want.''

He said other cities embraced skateboarding along the beachfront, such as at Tamaki Dr in Auckland where ''everyone is moving around on skates and it is a happening part of town''.

Mr Cull said the changes to the laws were to allow police to deal with problem skateboarders in the central city, where there were also banned areas.

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