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Skatepark crusader calls others to get on board

SHILO KINO
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014
Richard Smith
PIPE DREAM: Richard Smith wants the community to get behind a new skatepark in Otahuhu.

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Richard Smith remembers being a kid with nowhere to skate like it was yesterday.

"The closest skatepark was two hours away by skateboard. So me and my mates skated the streets until we were kicked off," he said.

Smith and his friends decided to take matters into their own hands and made their own skatepark from pallets and "anything they could find".

"We built our own skatepark and soon enough it became the spot."

Fast forward 17 years and the keen skateboarder is still making skateparks - but now he's getting paid for it.

The landscape architect has designed parks in New Zealand, Australia, Rarotonga and China. But there is one location he is yet to tick off his wish list.

Smith has been advocating for a skatepark in his home town Otahuhu for the past 13 years.

He has attended draft management plan meetings, contacted members of the local board and Auckland Council and has started petitions.

"This isn't just for skaters, it's for the whole community," he said.

"I love Otahuhu and the culture. It's down to earth and has a lot to offer.

"Things are slowly happening which is great. A skatepark will benefit the youth. There is no facility like this for kids."

Smith received around 140 signatures for a petition at the recent Otahuhu Youth Day. He has also put a submission in to the local board.

Now the award-winning skatepark designer hopes to create more awareness for his project.

"I've seen what a skatepark does to a community. Sometimes the people who are against it see what it does too and change their minds.

"I think there is an old-school misunderstanding of what skatepark facilities are about.

"You have rugby fields and tennis courts but wheel sports are big too. It gives kids a different form of creative expression," he said.

Mangere-Otahuhu Local Board member Christine O'Brien said the idea is worth exploring.

"Skateparks have a bad reputation but they can enhance a community if it's done properly.

"It's an expensive undertaking and there are budget constraints and pressure coming from above so it's hard to say when it could happen."

Smith is hoping members of the community will get on board.

"It would be great if others want to help out with fundraising. Let's do it for the community," he said.

Go to change.org/en-AU/petitions/auckland-council-the-development-of-a-skate-facility-in-otahuhu to sign Smith's petition.

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- Manukau Courier

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