While walking home through Pukeahu last week, there were a bunch of people with skateboards doing exactly what you’d expect in the park. I thought it was great. People are making the space useful on their own terms. This is what happens in urban spaces. Not long after, I saw this tweet:[tweet https://twitter.com/nmjyoung/status/597862734068252673]
It’s disappointing, really.
The article that Councillor Young cited was referring specifically to the Cenotaph, but there’s a similar article in the Wellingtonian regarding skateboards at Pukeahu. I’m not sure if it’s because the spaces are both newly unveiled or because they’re memorials, or both. When I asked Councillor Young, she didn’t answer that. She’d gotten as far as telling me that kids belong in playgrounds:[tweet https://twitter.com/nmjyoung/status/597967875899457537]
I’m not sure if she actually meant playgrounds or meant skate parks and just misspoke. WCC has a list of skate parks in the city, and it’s not a long list:
There are Council skate parks throughout the city offering local and visiting skaters a range of fun, accessible spaces.
- Waitangi Park – opposite Chaffers Street on the waterfront. The park has a wide variety of skate equipment and ramps for beginners and experienced skaters. It also has street skating equipment and concrete bowls.
- Ian Galloway Park – Curtis Street, Northland. This park has a new wooden ramp that’s higher and wider than the previous ramp.
- Island Bay Skate Park – Adelaide Road, Island Bay, opposite Wakefield Park. This park’s wooden mini-ramp was repaired and has a range of gradients.
- Newlands – behind Newlands Fire Station on Newlands Road. Has an open concrete space and ramps. A recent extension has added more concrete space, ramps and street skating equipment.
- Tawa – Davies Street, Tawa, behind Tawa Pool – has open concrete space, a ramp and street skate equipment.
- Nairnville Park – corner Cockayne Road / Lucknow Terrace, Khandallah. This park has a concrete ramp.
- Plantation Reserve – off Tirangi Road, Rongotai. This park has open concrete space and ramps with some rails.
For inner city locations, it’s just Waitangi Park, which gets quite a bit of utilisation as it is. If you were to try to fit all the inner-city skateboarding population in Waitangi Park at once, everyone is going to be worse off for it.
There are some by-laws in place for skateboarding:
15. Skateboards and skates
15.1 Use of a skateboard, roller-skates or inline-skates in a public place is allowed, except in areas with signs stating otherwise.
15.2 Every one who uses a skateboard, roller-skates or in-line skates shall ensure no damage is caused to Council property and shall show reasonable consideration for other persons using the public place.
My skating background is on ice and inline skates, but there are a lot of similarities that can be drawn across to any of the balance sports. Getting good at anything takes time and practice. Learning a skill isn’t as simple as watching someone else doing it and trying it a few times. The skill needs to be burned into memory through repetition. As these people learn to handle kerbs, steps and falls, they’re making themselves safer for the times that they’re on the footpath or on the streets, which they have every right to be.
The council has tools to curb damaging behaviour, should they need to, but maybe they should look at providing more options for people skating.
Skateboards are transport and portable entertainment. It’s easy to look with old eyes at the kids and think that they’re being disrespectful, but I don’t see it that way. There’s this quote from the article in the Wellingtonian:
Max Sceats, 16, said he understood their actions could be disrespectful.
“But we are using it better than the vast majority of people,” he said.
As for the damage, everything is going to weather over time. The benches will have a shorter life because of the skaters, which is possibly justification for invoking the bylaw, but it also reminds me of speaking with a security guard before Pukeahu was officially opened. This particular bench was already damaged by a taxi driver.