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Waihi Beach making big waves towards accessibility

Michelle Kleynhans with Maddison Snow at Anzac Bay. Photo: Anna Schroeder.

A Waihi Beach resident's sadness and frustration about her partner in a wheelchair not being able to gain access to the beach is prompting the community to rally behind a new movement.

The community's reaction to the woman's plea on social media has been immense, as they too felt it was simply not good enough, and that everyone, no matter their capability, should be able to enjoy the beach.

And so this started the Accessible Waihi Beach movement!

In January this year, two beach wheelchairs, worth more than $16,000 were donated in by LJ Hooker and a local beach resident.

These were made available for free use for both locals and visitors all year round, says a statement from the Waihi Beach Community Events and Promotions group.

"Goldfields School from Paeroa visited the Waihi Beach area in February and used the beach wheelchairs the very day they were delivered.

"Then the Waihi Beach community decided they would like to go even further and provide easy access for ALL onto to the beach."

The plan to achieve this is by introducing Accessibility Beach Mats which enables wheelchair users, those with mobility issues, our elderly community and even young families to get onto the beach, says a spokesperson for the group.

"It will also mean that Waihi Beach can welcome new events such as adapted surf competitions and host special needs schools at our beach and community.

"Guided by local Dave MacCalman, Halberg Foundation, and through consultation with Tauranga Council (who placed mats at Mount Maunganui); Waihi Beach Community Events & Promotions has coordinated a plan to purchase and install mats (to be out over the summer period) near the mobility toilets at the north end of Waihi Beach. Waihi Beach Surf Lifesaving Club are also in full support of this initiative."

The mats are made of 100 per cent recycled polyester roll and will have longevity of 8-10 years.

The project has been costed out at about $45,000.

The response to the project has been huge.

"Sponsorship contributions - large and small from both businesses and individuals, as well as a give-a-little page have generated over 80% of the funds required.

"And we have just received news that we will receive the remaining funds through two local grants that were applied for. refore, we are confident to have the mats purchased and installed by Labour Weekend, in time for summer!"

David Hayes, back left,, Julie Hayes, Mel Gearon, Barb Young, Bill Young, Gary Always, Jessica Harris, Marion Gattung, Demian Dunlop, Theresa Gattung, Peter Church, Trudi Gatland, Cindy Clare, Tai MacCalman, front left, and Dave MacCalman. Photo: Cassandra Sharp Photography.

The key sponsors of this initiative are: LJ Hooker Waihi Beach, The Gattung Family, Andrew’s House Movers, Waihi Beach RSA, Bee NZ, Waihi Beach Contractors, The Gatland Family, Bill & Barb Young, Flat White Café, Hikaka Investigations, Maurice Trapp Group, Athenree Holiday Park, Threads of Mayhem, Waihi Beach Surf Club and Waihi Beach Community Events & Promotions.

There are beach access mats at Mount Maunganui, Takapuna and Days Beach in Wellington.

The Mount and Day Beach mats were paid for and managed by their council (Takapuna was donated by a family).

However, the Waihi Beach community is driving this project and making it happen through it's own initiative and funding.

Waihi Beach is a community of coasties who work hard to care for and protect their beach, but are equally passionate about ensuring that everyone can enjoy and experience our beach like they do! Now that’s what you call ‘community’!

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