WHAKATANE councillor Victor Luca believes the tidal pool created at the Wairaka Centennial Park in Muriwai Drive has moved from an accident waiting to happen to the site of a serious accident.
Dr Luca made the comment at last week’s Whakatane District Council project and services committee meeting.
The tidal pool has long been a topic of discussion around the council table due to the community’s worries that the steps are too steep, and the water is dirty and stagnant.
Dr Luca’s comments came as the tidal pool was back on the agenda as the council has engaged environmental and planning consultancy Boffa Miskell to assist with “progressing a review on the safe swimming area”.
“It is no longer an accident waiting to happen; an accident has already happened,” Dr Luca said.
He said in October last year a woman fell down the steps while trying to avoid “rats the size of cats” and her fall resulted in a hospital visit.
“She is still suffering from the effects of this fall now,” he said.
Committee chairperson Gerard van Beek said the council could not consider the matter as it was currently a rumour.
“To add weight, this needs to be turned into a complaint,” Mr van Beek said.
“Council is quite aware of what is going on down there.”
The Beacon has viewed photos of injuries which are allegedly linked to the incident. The photos show extensive bruising to a woman’s leg. The woman allegedly involved has been approached for comment.
While Dr Luca was concerned about the safety aspect of the pool, councillor Lesley Immink felt not enough had been done to inform the public of progress with the issue.
“Have the iwi been advised we will be coming back to speak with them?” Mrs Immink asked.
“It would be great to have a timeline to advise them of.”
Chief executive Stephanie O’Sullivan said staff met with Ngati Awa at least once a fortnight to “discuss a whole range of issues”.
“Their little ones are still enjoying the space and they still want to be able to access the river,” she said.
Mrs Immink said it would be a good idea for the council’s communications team to ensure there was adequate communication around the issue as, currently, “no one knows anything”.
“They need to reassure people that something is happening and that it isn’t going to take until next winter,” she said.
“If we could be more proactive it would diffuse council and councillors being the target. A lot of people still have major concerns over what is happening.”
Ms O’Sullivan said the communications team would do this when there were particular dates around wider community consultation.
As part of its review on the tidal pool, Boffa Miskell will develop and implement an iwi and community engagement plan, undertake a technical review of the tidal pool safety and amenity and provide an assessment of issues and options.
It is expected Boffa Miskell will have this draft programme ready by mid-February with the programme to commence by late February and into March.
Any options will be presented to a future meeting for consideration.