The location and inaccessibility of the beach wheelchair at Byron Bay have meant that potential users have struggled to gain access to it since its relocation from Pacific Apartments in Byron Bay.
‘About six months ago I saw someone in a wheelchair and asked if I could assist,’ said Louden a local resident who had worked as a lifeguard in the lifeguard service at Byron from 2010 to 2015.
‘When I worked as a lifeguard the beach access wheelchair was located at the Pacific Apartments and they were great, you would just give them a ring and they would say to send them up for the key. So I took it upon myself and made the phone call. I was told it had been moved and to contact council. I rang council and they said they made a few phone calls and then said they had misplaced it.
‘A few days ago I saw a pamphlet for the wheelchair advertising it for beach access. So I rang the council again. The council switchboard told me to ring Pacific Apartments, they said to call Clarks Beach Cafe who then told me to call Clarks Caravan Park. They said they didn’t know where it was so I called council back. This was at midday. At 4pm council called me back and advised me that it had been moved to the council depot as an interim measure.’
Second beach wheelchair for Byron
A subsequent post about the issue on the Byron Bay Community Board has led to the purchase of a second beech wheel chair by Trish Ware, a local designer and dressmaker, that was originally spotted and then collected on Trish’s behalf by Peter Creasey and his daughter Kat.
‘I am fortunate enough to be able to walk for an hour on the beach every morning to start my day in the best way possible,’ said Trish.
When Peter said he had seen a beach wheelchair for $150 up the coast Trish wrote ‘Shit for that price, I’ll go buy it’ and did.
Trish is now hoping that the wheelchair can find an appropriate home and provide effective wheelchair access to beach users.
In the mean time council has been negotiating a new location for the beach wheelchair and have told The Echo that they ‘have been working on finding an alternative, easily accessible home for the beach wheelchair and they have successfully negotiated an arrangement with the Lifeguard Service,’ said Byron Shire Council’s Acting General Manager, Mark Arnold.
The beach wheelchair is currently located at the Byron Shire Council’s depot in Bayshore Drive and it can be booked during the week when the depot is open.
Paul Pattison, president of the Byron Bay Surf club where council are negotiating its storage said ‘The Byron Bay surf lifesaving club are happy to look at housing the wheelchair. We are working with council to look at a safe place to store it.’
Mr Pattison also suggested that the second wheelchair could be stored at the Councils Byron Bay depot and swapped in when the other wheelchair is out of action for maintenance and repair.
While the beach wheelchair is located at the depot it is only available for use during the week when the depot is open and is there fore not available on the weekends.
‘I understand this is not ideal for people who want to use the wheelchair on the weekend but because it is a specialised piece of equipment Council needs to make sure it is kept in a safe spot, and is properly maintained and it has taken some time to get alternative arrangements in place,’ continued Arnold.
Book ahead at Brunswick and Byron
There are currently two wheelchairs provided by council for beach access one at Brunswick Heads and one at Byron Bay. The one at Brunswick Heads and is kept at the Brunswick Valley Community Centre and can be booked on 66851498. The one at Byron can be booked on 6685 9315.