I decided I would hold my thoughts for a few weeks until the attack against me by the group against the Pilot Bay boardwalk has subsided somewhat. I feel that I should say something about this matter as I would be doing a far larger group of people injustice if I did not.
The elderly, disabled, Mums with pushchairs and generally anyone who would benefit from a boardwalk at Pilot Bay have been bashed this past month. I believe it started when I spoke against remarks about people with disabilities which were made during a submission in Council chambers that I found extremely offensive.
Before I go on, I must applaud Colleen Spiro who led the fight against the Pilot Bay boardwalk. For someone like her (a stay-at-home grandmother, I believe) to have gone out of her way to present her submission in Council chambers and organised an event in protest of the boardwalk and carry that through even in the rain, is a lot more than many others have done for their cause.
Very unfortunately, this fight which started off nobly, turned ugly and nasty. My words in chambers, which were recorded and publicly available, were twisted into a different meaning and tone. And for reasons I am unable to decipher other than it helped victimise her and brand me a bully, Colleen did not choose to correct the misquote and as a result, all hell broke loose.
This attack also became slander against me. One woman who is not even in New Zealand, let alone Tauranga, claimed I went to college with her husband and brother, and since they are not yet 50 years old, my declared age of 54 is a lie, hence I am a liar and I have therefore lied about everything.
I know. HUH?? Right?
How this person, who is not a resident or ratepayer of Tauranga, along with about 200 other non-residents, are allowed to protest against the boardwalk is a question on this group's credibility.
I received an email from Colleen admitting her selfishness, accusing me of saying words she knows I did not say and accusing the disabled community of demanding rights over the abled-bodied. So I would like to ask:
- Who has easy access to Pilot Bay in its current state? Who does not?
- Who will have easy access to Pilot Bay with a boardwalk in place?
The answers are obvious so how are we demanding rights over the abled-bodied? For as long as I have lived in Tauranga, which is all 54 years of my life, Pilot Bay has never been easy access for the elderly and people with disabilities. Some parts are not accessible at all.
And for as long as I have lived in Tauranga, Pilot Bay has never been in such a sad state of deterioration. We have had a record number of cruise passengers last summer and going forward, only an ever-increasing number of Pilot Bay users which will add to further deterioration and erosion.
I am the exception to the rule when it comes to people with disabilities. Anyone who knows me or knows of me could see how ridiculous it was to base an average disabled person's ability on mine.
What was even more disheartening and offensive was Colleen's audacity saying that she was pushed around Pilot Bay in a wheelchair when she broke her ankle. It was not a problem for her so it can't be that difficult for people in wheelchairs.
How ignorant and self-centred must one be to compare a broken ankle to being paralysed, with no feeling or movement, useless muscles or having absolutely no control over one's limbs? Or in my case, missing limbs? Has she thought about what it is like, not having legs and easily falling forward when wheeling over even small bumps that might stop my chair abruptly? Obviously not.
I was even more offended when people who were unable to access Pilot Bay easily were told to go somewhere else, like Main Beach. We were told there comes a time when people should accept their limitations and move on. There was absolutely no concern whose feelings their words hurt.
When the group's argument went into the danger of speeding wheelchairs running into children, that was when I decided that everyone was better off just letting them dig their own grave. It was a clear sign of desperation.
It is very sad that such bigotry exists in New Zealand and sadder still, right here in Tauranga. I was appalled that the culprits (including a fellow Councillor who voted FOR the boardwalk and then changed his mind) could not see their wrongdoing but instead had no qualms about publishing their discriminatory and sarcastic remarks on social media for all to see. I noted some of their earlier supporters leaving the cause due to those distasteful remarks and yet, they could not see.
The media had reported my intention to bring the issue to the Human Rights Commission. To get the record straight, I did speak to an acquaintance at the Disabilities Commission who told me that I had a case and should speak to the Human Rights Commission. They then affirmed that I had a case and told me that I should also bring it to the Disabled Persons Assembly which has direct access to Central government.
At no time did I mention any names so I'm pretty sure the Disabilities Commissioner would not be too pleased about Colleen's claim that she received a call from them. According to her, the Disabilities Commission discredited me and said I did not have a case.
I did not in the end bring the issue to the Human Rights Commission because I did not want to take the focus away from the Pilot Bay boardwalk. This was the main issue that was being dealt with in Council and all I am interested in is accessibility for all. Anything else is of no benefit to the ratepayers of Tauranga.
A "compromise" was reached earlier this month and Colleen immediately took credit for it. How amusing... The boardwalk was ALWAYS going to be close to the road and trees where possible. If she had listened, she would have known that right from the beginning and none of the nastiness would have been necessary.
As for people questioning my representing the disabled community, I would like you to know that I have been asked by various groups including Tauranga City Council to represent the disabled community long before I was elected into Council. I would expect that I will continue to be asked whether I am a Councillor or otherwise.