Major Moves to Help Disabled

in Kapiti this Year

By Jim Webber
19th December 2009

Chair, Kapiti Disability Reference Group

Two major “drivers”, as they say, underpin what many of us in the disabilities sector believe is a real and worthwhile expansion of awareness about disabilities in Kapiti in 2009.

One is the inescapable fact that with the growth of the 65-plus age group in Kapiti comes growth in the rate of many kinds of impairments that accompany advancing age.

The other is increased recognition by the present Kapiti Coast District Council that people with disabilities should have access to the same services, facilities and community benefits as anyone else.

These may be as simple as footpaths unobstructed by recycling bins — tackled recently in a Council awareness campaign — and as complex as ensuring that a shopping centre can be used easily by people in wheelchairs.

Kapiti Disabled Higher than National Average

The over-65 age group in Kapiti already rates nearly double the national percentage:  23 percent, compared with 12.3 percent of the NZ population.

While nearly 17 percent of New Zealand’s population is disabled, according to the 2006 Census, in Kapiti the disability figure is over 20 percent — because of its large number of residents over 65.

According to Capital & Coast DHB forecasts the 65-plus sector in Kapiti is set to continue to increase well ahead of the overall population growth.

The DHB has a vested interest in knowing where this age group is heading so that it can plan health services to meet the predictable demands that will be made on them in future.

KCDC “Under Fire”

Similar motivation affects territorial local bodies.  Kapiti Coast District Council has been under fire from various sectors this year in areas such as bus services, beach access, rubbish collections and . . .  disabilities.

As a member of one disabilities group — the Disability Reference Group that advises KCDC about disability issues — one of my impressions of the past year has been that we’ve conveyed anxiety about disability issues to the council and communicated a lot of information back to disability networks.

But we have been occasionally criticised by a small but vocal minority of residents for not giving the council a hard time!

And the Council Chamber, which is inaccessible to many disabled people, is a continuing worry.

Travellers to big-population countries where disabled people can easily get to the beach and into the water say “Hey, why can’t we do that here?”

All Sorts of Difficulties for Disabled People

People who use walking frames at Coastlands say the central ramp is too steep. and visually impaired people find bus stop information boards impossible to read.  Deaf people can’t hear warning signals.  Wheelchair users may be prevented from using an accessible toilet because some non-disabled occupant is having a quiet read.

Guide-dog users can be obstructed by people who park on the footpath.  Drivers with mobility cards are blocked from parking in mobility parks because able-bodied motorists sometimes play the odds against being clamped.

So the list of daily difficulties for impaired people in Kapiti goes on. Where and when we can, and if there’s a good reason, the DRG makes recommendations and monitors improvements.

On the bright side, the year has seen some notable gains.  Transport to Kenepuru and Wellington Hospitals has improved.   New accessible walkways have appeared near the sand dunes.  The Council meets in the Community Centre when necessary until it solves the council chamber accessibility issue.

Paraparaumu Beach Upgrade Gets Good Marks

Paraparaumu Beach shopping centre has had a major $1.2 million makeover with strong accessibility appeal.

The next one is Otaki, one of the older town centres in Kapiti district.  Project manager Giles Griffith came to our last meeting for the year with Don Moselen, deputy chair of Otaki Community Board, to outline next year’s refurbishment for the old township zone.

It will take shape when the community and its elected representatives decide which option to take to get the most benefit from a $1.7 million upgrade.

The Disability Reference Group has put in an early bid to have some input to the projected Aquatic Centre project.

We’re not making a statement about whether Kapiti needs a high-profile swimming complex.

But when the proposal goes ahead we would like to be involved in early design to ensure that it is fully accessible for impaired people and equipped with portable or permanent equipment to enable them to use a facility that could contribute greatly to healthy exercise and rehabilitation.

Good Public Transport Vital Too

The Disability Reference Group has also has been involved in public transport issues, through both KCDC and Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC).

The GWRC oversees the rail link between Kapiti Coast and Wellington and is working through the rail upgrade in readiness for the new Matangi trains that late next year will usher in a new era of accessible rail use for passengers boarding at Waikanae and Paraparaumu.

Although most of our interest in more accessible services has been wearing the label “disabilities”, we’re conscious that many other users benefit from better access.

These users include mothers with pushchairs, people with wheeled shopping bags and, of course, elderly people using walking frames and walking sticks.

GWRC also plans the Kapiti bus routes, while KCDC looks after the groundwork (including kerb cuts and level concrete pads) where GWRC decides the bus stops will be located.

Langdale Avenue Bus Service Improves

One major exercise for GWRC during the past few months has been getting agreement on the controversial bus route that serves the Langdale Avenue area.

Finally this month the various proposals were discussed with residents. It was agreed that a new “loop” route, from Kapiti Road into Langdale, out to the beach and back via Te Roto Drive, would see more frequent services that meet the needs of residents in the Langdale / Kapiti Village area.

Remedial work on many of the old and inaccessible bus stops throughout the district has been assessed so that KCDC will know which ones need to be done first when its infrastructure budget permits.

In more bus news, the off-peak Coastlands service will be restored early in the New Year with the outbound run from the train station stopping near the new southern entrance to Coastlands and the inbound buses stopping where the taxis now line up next to Woolworths.

For the New Year: If anyone is inconvenienced or plain frustrated by a public service of any kind, the first move is to phone KCDC’s call centre.  If your complaint doesn’t involve the Council, you’ll be advised to call another agency.

The big thing is to register a complaint — it’s a worthwhile New Year resolution!