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Diplomacy on a roll

DANIELLE STREET
Last updated 05:00 24/07/2013
Chey Ataria
STRAIGHT AND NARROW: Chey Ataria has taken on the role of Skate Ambassador for a council-led pilot programme encouraging skaters to coexist better with the general public.

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Etiquette isn't often associated with skateboarding but a group of veteran skaters is working with Auckland Council to help get some more decorum into the sport.

Young boarders have swarmed to take advantage of the newly upgraded and highly skateable Lorne St and Aotea Square.

But they sometimes clash with members of the public who find them a nuisance.

The Skate Ambassador scheme is being piloted by the council during the school holidays to promote respectful cohabitation.

It has employed the assistance of advocacy group Skaters United Voice (SUV) to help inexperienced skaters learn good social graces.

Semi-retired pro skater Chey Ataria is one of a handful of SUV members to join as an ambassador.

The ambassadors spend about three hours every day between the two spots, giving advice on what is and isn't acceptable in the public arena.

"So far the response has been pretty good and the kids have been into it," Mr Ataria says.

"We have told some kids to chill out when they have been skating in front of people eating their lunch on the street and everyone has been cool, as opposed to if it was a random council member with a clipboard who came out to shoo them away."

Mr Ataria hopes the Skate Ambassador pilot will encourage the council to open more street spots and attract skaters looking for variety beyond the popular Victoria Park Skate Park.

"On the weekend there are a million little kids in the park and they are all on scooters and it is quite hectic, so a lot of skaters avoid it. And there really is nowhere else to go, so they head towards the city," he says.

The pilot scheme will complement a wider programme to develop codes of conduct for skating in the public realm, Auckland council project leader Keren Neal says.

"We are taking a proactive approach to skaters in the city centre," she says.

"They are part of the colour and vibrancy of our public spaces but they also need to know they can't get in the way of pedestrians or damage walls."

Ms Neal says the council has already incorporated skate culture into the architectural design of public spaces such as Lorne St.

The small library-front lane has studs on walkways to stop skaters encroaching on pedestrian spaces but reinforced seats and walls mean skating will not extensively damage the site.

Levi Hawken, who is well-known for his "nek minit" clip, is working alongside Mr Ataria as a skate ambassador.

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The lifelong skater says it is great to see the council being constructive and working with skateboarders as a positive force.

"Skateboarding is such a great confidence builder and the more we incorporate it into society, the more young people feel a connection and pride in their community."

Mr Hawken says the new approach has been well-received by skateboarders and allowed them to view Auckland with a refreshed perspective.

"We're hoping with further education we can make this coexistence as pleasant as possible," he says.

- Auckland City Harbour News

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