On again: skateboarding in the mall to be trialled

 

Skaters recently gave the skatepark a new lick of paint. The skatepark is appreciated but it doesn’t provide for the full range of skating skills. 

 

By KIERAN FINNANE

 

Skateboarding looks set to be trialled in the northern end of Todd Mall after the Town Council voted four to three in favour.

 

A motion put by Councillor Chansey Paech (below left) and seconded by Cr Jade Kudrenko was hotly debated last night, following an earlier meeting between councillors and about 20 young local skateboarders and their articulate champion and mentor, Matty Day.

 

The trial area for a period of three months is strictly limited to the western side of the footpath along the northern end of the Alice Plaza where skateable street furniture was installed during the recent upgrade of the mall.

 

Initially proposing an amendment to the by-law that bans skating in the CBD, Cr Paech readily accepted the suggestion from officers to introduce instead a moratorium on its enforcement for the trial period.

 

He wanted the trial to start immediately but also accepted the Mayor’s suggestion of “as soon as possible”, to allow time for the detail to be settled, such as clarification of council’s liability and insurance coverage, the final boundaries of the trial site and communication of council’s decision to the public.

 

Council staff will record any issues arising during the trial and report back to councillors at the first ordinary council meeting following the three month period.

 

Councillors firmly against the proposal were Steve Brown and Dave Douglas, with Brendan Heenan wavering in his comments but finally also voting against.

 

The case for was ably put by Crs Paech and Kudrenko and was supported by Mayor Damien Ryan and Deputy Mayor Liz Martin who was in the chair. Cr Eli Melky was absent due to the sudden death of his father in recent days, while the Mayor attended the meeting by phone, due to his mother-in-law having also just passed away.

 

Former councillor Murray Stewart had addressed the meeting during public question time, saying he felt “extremely vulnerable at the prospect of skating in the mall”. Mr Stewart is blind and asked council to take into consideration people like himself, senior citizens and other citizens with mobility disabilities.

 

Mary Playford, also from the floor, said she didn’t understand why there was “a need for skaters to be there”. She warned that skaters would “put shoppers off”.

 

Cr Paech later responded to Mr Stewart’s comments, pointing out that he was on the previous council that had signed off on the plans for the mall which included the skateable furniture. He understood, however, the “risk perception” but he felt that it could be dealt with if the proposed trial is “communicated well”.

 

The northern end of the mall is “big enough” for all members of the community to use it, he argued. The skateable zone will be limited and not in conflict with any entry and exit points to the Alice Plaza. He described the deputation of young skaters who had met with council as “very positive citizens” who wanted to show that they’re not “negative”, they will be “considerate” of others and stop skating if anyone “needs assistance”.

 

Cr Brown said the mall had been designed for the whole community, not for “a select group”. If it’s set aside for them, then it will be “a restriction” on others. He rejected that the street furniture had been designed for skating, rather it was designed “to be sat on” and sitting and skating are “mutually exclusive”.

 

He is not against skaters and said he’d be interested to see skateable furniture along the riverside walking and cycling path, for example. He acknowledged that there are many times when there are no people in the northern end of the mall but suggested that skating would be only further “off-putting” to people coming there.

 

Director of Corporate and Community Services Craig Catchlove also suggested a “compromise” – that skateable furniture be installed in Snow Kenna Park (riverside, between the Senior Citizens Centre and the Totem Theatre). This could be achieved for a “relatively cheap cost” and could serve a dual purpose in providing seating for special events that get held in the park from time to time.

 

Cr Kudrenko challenged the logic of Cr Brown’s point about favouring one group over another: if skaters were excluded, it would mean pedestrians being favoured, she said. She also said there would be a “safety issue” for young skaters if they were “out of sight, out of mind” at Snow Kenna Park. Their parents would be happier for them to be in a shared open public space, she said.

 

She argued that skaters would bring business to the area; that the trial zone was a very small area; that what was being asked for was a trial to be followed by a review; and she pointed out that the skate park does not provide facilities for all the skills that skaters want to develop.

 

Cr Douglas said skating should be catered for in other parts of town, not along the Plaza where council is trying to encourage shop owners to open their doors onto the street. Skating in the area would also not be conducive to al fresco cafes in the area.

 

Cr Paech said shop owners had been supportive (apparently referring to consultation undertaken by Matty Day). He said skaters do not want to be moved out of sight, they want to be seen, want to “break down the stigma”. He was disappointed in Cr Brown not having asked any questions of skaters during council’s meeting with them.

 

Cr Brown said he’d been “listening”. He likes to listen and think before he speaks and suggested Cr Paech “try it some time”. (Cr Paech later answered this barb, saying that he has indeed listened, his proposal was about “ensuring the voice of all residents be heard”).

 

Cr Brown said Snow Kenna Park would be an “ideal location” for skating. He said no other group asks to be able to play their sport in the mall; everyone else seems to understand that there is a “proper place” for their activity; skaters shouldn’t be “so selfish”.

 

Cr Heenan said skating was never mentioned during the planning for the mall redevelopment. The shared zone was designed for “people and vehicles”. He was recently in Melbourne – which welcomes skating in its CBD, with some provisos – and didn’t see it anywhere.

 

 Seeing is believing: Melbourne not only allows skating in public places, it celebrates it! Photo supplied by Melbourne skater Alex Waldmeyer. 

 

However, if it were to be allowed in the mall, it should only be during certain hours, after 6pm on weekdays, after 2pm on the weekends, said Cr Heenan.

 

Cr Kudrenko urged her fellow councillors to “move into the future” by supporting the trial which is about invigorating the town’s open spaces. Council also doesn’t need to “reinvent the wheel” on this issue as it has been done in other places, such as Melbourne.

 

Cr Paech similarly urged them to “give it a try”; if it doesn’t work, council can then look at creating another space for skaters.

 

Deputy Mayor Martin expressed her support for the move but wanted a little more study of the detail to “manage the risk”.

 

The debate essentially moved back and forth between young councillors Paech and Kudrenko on one side and the considerably older councillors Brown, Douglas and Heenan on the other. Importantly though, Cr Paech was able to win the support of the Mayor and Deputy Mayor, also from the older age bracket.  He has approached this issue steadily over weeks if not months, with research, reasoning and communication, and finally with a well-articulated reasonable proposal. He can be proud.

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13 Comments (starting with the most recent)

NB: If you want to reply to a previous comment, start your comment with this notation: @n where n is the number of the comment you want to reply to.
  1. Graham Buckley
    Posted November 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    As I am in the latter years of being a septuagenarian making comment on this ‘hot topic’is making me a tad nervous as I don’t to want to be seen as adding to the ‘ageist’ element in it. That is mainly because one of the present councillors has referred to me as a “pathetic old man’; that was prefixed with a popular expletive!
    At the outset I wish to make it clear that the noise of skateboard wheels does not excite me, I much prefer the silent presentation of my carbon fibre two wheeler.
    That said, let the trial begin folks.If it does not work out then we simply call in the head man from Queensland, Campbell Newman. He is sorting out the bikies there so skateboarders should be a mere rollover. It’s also a thought that some councillors and their backers would, I’m sure, be happy to draw upon.

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  2. Hal Duell
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:31 pm

    Will Matty Day nominate for a seat on Council in the coming by-election?
    Sincere apologies if I have it wrong, but a late whisper tells me he has. If so, then we will see what the electorate thinks.
    What a shame Geoff Booth had to resign. Were he still on Council and a part owner in an escort agency, then perhaps his employees could have gone skateboarding. Now that would have generated some interest!

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  3. Sally
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 4:10 pm

    Totally ridiculous … so this is the best that the Council can do. Spent millions of dollars on renovating the mall with the aim of attracting people to this area.
    If you want to attract people why don’t you use some common sense and ask the Alice Plaza to open their doors … what an appaling sight! There are only three shops opened … Best and Less, Rusty Zipers and Novita Gifts.
    Have any of the councillors actually asked these businesses what they think?
    There was an issue with skate boarders prior to the mall upgrade, mainly due the boredom.
    Skate boarders will not attract people to spend money … so what’s the point?
    I personally don’t have any issues with the skateboarders but I don’t see how it will benefit the mall or businesses?

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  4. Peter
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    I congratulate the council on having the foresight to go ahead with the trial.
    I am sure this will be an exciting opportunity for skaters to demonstrate they are responsible members of the community who appreciate the ability to skate and enjoy their sport / pastime / hobby / lifestyle within the heart of the town.
    Further, this as a great opportunity for business to increase their trade and open to a new consumer.
    Just as performers, the markets and other users of the mall bring in business skateboarders also have the potential to do the same.
    An exciting time for all.

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  5. Peter Solly
    Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:41 am

    Democracy, is about reasoned debate. This issue has been debated in council, online, on radio and in the press for some months now. The debate culminated in a vote, having listened to the debate both within council and in the public domain, an amendment made and the amended motion passed. Democracy at work! Councillors should respect this democratic process and move forward. The time for debate is during the debate, not after the vote.

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  6. Murray Stewart
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 9:42 pm

    I begin my contribution to this debate by referring to Mr Thorns comments that I should accept last Monday’s results as I voted to allow cars into the mall.
    I have, as a vision impaired person of 50 years, who has to become an expert in navigating around all sorts of obstructions and impediments in order to travel from point A to B, there is a very big difference between the ordered and controlled manner in which vehicles travel as opposed to the extremely haphazard nature of adrenalin charged teenagers on skateboards.
    It is almost impossible for me to explain it, except to say that if Mr Thorn had to live it on a daily basis, he would truly understand.
    In moving to this wonderful town in 2001, I have always been amazed by its easily accessible nature for someone such as myself.
    Monday’s decision has changed this scenario dramatically.
    Unlike Melbourne with its many suburbs and a plethora of retail options, Alice Springs has only one CBD and only one Mall. Monday’s decision has effectively ensured that someone such as myself, through the natural perceived fear response, which is a common sense protective mechanism built within most totally blind people, has been denied independent access to this one Mall.
    What is also most concerning is that despite my openness throughout all my years to the views of young people, the adult drivers of Monday’s motion ensured that the views of people such as myself were not heard by their young chargers.
    The Alice Springs Town Council has made much of their 5.30pm open forum as being a new, modern and transparent way of doing business, and yet having been invited to attend this open forum before the meeting and vote, I was informed that it was now a closed meeting to Matt Day and the skateboarders only.
    Yes, Matt and Cr Paech may be articulate but they have most definitely shredded democracy in this process.
    As a family man and a person who has worked tirelessly to provide sport and recreational opportunities to young people, I have a greater respect for young people’s awareness in their understanding of the challenges that confront other sectors of the community.
    I am therefore very certain, had the proponents of this motion allowed us to share open dialogue about our mutual concerns, a very different compromise would have been arrived at, for example the very inventive use of some of our recreational reserves and cycleways referenced by Councillors at Monday night’s meeting.
    In my time on Council, I would like to think I built up a bank of very good will with both the seniors and the disabled community.
    Echoing this, many people have contacted me since this vote. I have assured them that I will not let them down – stay tuned.

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  7. ian sharp
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Jeez Steve Brown, you do bang on. I find it hard to read more than the first and last sentences of your long diatribes. Especially as they are so frequent. Tolstoy had the same problem I reckon. Let brevity and succinctness (or even silence!) be your watchwords, at least every second day.

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  8. Steve Brown
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm

    Skaters were never excluded from the mall or CBD they were just asked to respect the safety of others by not skating in it! There is absolutely no more need or requirement for skaters to practice their sport in the Mall/CBD than there is for the footy club to practice theirs. The comments on this page by ST and Lou demonstrate the one eyed completely oblivious to the needs of others attitudes that we have just voted to let loose in the CBD. We are about to allow these people and their children to skate at and around our seniors, mothers with prams, wandering tourists, pedestrians in general. Sadly I think Skaters have also been let down, sold a pup by this decision, giving up the possibility of a dynamic new park in favour of practising their sport in a small part of the mall on one chair! I suspect by the end of the first week they’ll be completely bored with it.
    Meanwhile the approval for Skaters to skate the Footpaths and seating has left Skaters and council in an extremely precarious situation. It will only take one collision with a pedestrian to bring on the lawsuits. How long will it be? Hold your breath parents, I hear the lawyers laughing in anticipation!
    As for your comment Lou I’m sure it will come as quite a shock to you but only a very few children or “youth” as we insist on calling them Skate. The very large part of “youth” find skating around them noisy, annoying, and intimidating! Did you ever take that into consideration??
    It might surprise you Lou but many of my children and grandchildren and even nieces and nephews do or have skated at one time or another, yes and been in trouble with authority for it. I’ve even participated myself on occasion. As a Dad, Grandfather and Councillor I have to make Judgements based on the welfare and concerns of the “Majority” of our citizenry and make sure that they are not put at risk by the thrill seeking efforts of a small minority. I suggest you take a step back and a less one eyed stance. You might find yourself arriving at the conclusion that I did, that is that it is no more safe for Skaters to Skate amongst pedestrians than it is for Bikes and cars to ride amongst them and by the way Steve Thorne cars and bikes are not on the footpaths they are on the road way! I wouldn’t have had any issues with Skaters being on the road but apparently they are not allowed there.
    There is also the matter of the cost of implementing this trial sign-age and Insurance. Did I see any hands up prepared to cover those costs? So those funds come out of potential funding for other Sports such as Athletics who have waited a long time for funding. These are the things that we have to take into account when we are making decisions for “Whole of Community”.
    And it’s always really easy to say nice things and cave into pressure groups of likeable young adults, many of whom I know personally. I would love to have been able to say “Yes” to the young folk. If you were making the decision do you really think that would be the responsible thing! I respectfully suggest that the adults involved here start adopting a more responsible less self centred attitude. Take a look at the wider community. You’ve been sold a pup and from where I stand missed a golden chance to do something long term and very exciting for your sport. Unfortunately from Politics being what it is I think you’ve missed your chance. Reminds me of the words to a Gordon Lightfoot song “ When I feel like I’m winning but I’m loosing Again”. You might see a win, I see something else completely.

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  9. Judicious Janet
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm

    HOORAY! A victory for common sense! Spot on Lou.

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  10. Kieran Finnane
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 4:37 pm

    As clearly indicated, Janet, I wrote the article, not Erwin. Apart from referring to “young” skateboarders, it refers to age differences only in the final paragraph and this reference can hardly be construed as an attack on anyone. Its emphasis is on the way Cr Paech has worked effectively on this issue, with skaters and with council. His relative youthfulness is, I believe, culturally relevant.

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  11. Janet Brown
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    So this has been hijacked to be a war between age groups. Not safety not respect . The entire article is about conflict between the older generation and the skateboarding youth. Age gender and ethnic origins are always up for public debate but council should be made up of decent people with open and inclusive views and values. I am offended that this article has denigrated into young and old views as the assumptions are pure speculation. There is no right and wrong outcome from this when some feel compelled to verbalise disabled person and those over 40. Everyone is entitle to a stance as it is always based on approach. Everyone has the right to voice for and against. But to hold this article as an an attack on the older generation due to their stand on this issue is really rich. Sorry Erwin you are older than me but this is about an issue for council to debate free of the age inferred attacks. And it requires media to stay on focus. Skate boarding in the mall.

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  12. Steve Thorne
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 2:02 pm

    I congratulate the Council for its foresight in going ahead with this trial. When the town centre revitalisation project began in 2009, the northern end of the mall was characterised by anti-social behaviour, blank walls, and a fair amount of desolation. There was a clear economic strategy to bring life and vitality back into that section of the mall, to make it “cool” and encourage increased patronage of those shops which continued to struggle in that part of town. Part of the economic strategy was to open the mall to cars, but control speeds through design. This has happened. A further strategy was to design furniture and landscapes which could be skated. It was with grave concern for the economic recovery of the town centre that I read of the fines and banning of skaters from the mall. I am relieved that those bans have now been lifted, at least for a period of time. Part of the strategy to make the northern part of the mall “cool” is to increase a sense of ownership and prevent potential damage to infrastructure. If a place is valued by the broader community (including skaters) it is less likely to be damaged or vandalised. For this reason it was designed to appeal to the broadest range of potential users. More people in town and a vibrant town centre will be good for business I suggest.

    I respectfully differ with Murray Stewart as he was a member of the council which opened the mall to traffic and therefore cannot now argue that skateboards will be dangerous when cars pose more of a potential hazard to pedestrians than skateboards. I am certain that skaters, if treated with more respect than they have been during this saga, will be mindful and respectful of other people’s safety and comfort. This is their opportunity to show this. I’m sure they won’t disappoint.

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  13. lou
    Posted October 29, 2013 at 1:01 pm

    What a fantastic outcome for the whole community, finally some life can be put back into the Todd Mall, it’s very unfortunate that some councillors were not even willing to give this a go !!!!
    My Grandchildren often use skateboards as a mode of transport and to connect and socialise with friends. I must say that I was most offended when Steven Brown made comment that skateboarders shouldn’t be so selfish. I think this really demonstrates the need to have younger people on your council to ensure that the voice of all community members is heard.

    It’s rather funny I used to think of myself as a traditional and mildly conservative person, however reading the comments from BROWN, DOUGLAS I am horrified at their approach towards things, a bit like the Northern Territory Government really, one size fits all. Well I am sorry to burst your bubble but that’s not the case, members of the community all have different needs. I for one am excited to see life enter into the Todd Mall, bring it on !!!!

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