A travelling tricyclist from Finland is about to receive his citizenship after 20 years of residence in New Zealand.
Richmond man Haykey Kaariainen has been based in the Nelson area for about four years. He has been turning plenty of heads as he gets around on his distinctive recumbent tricycle and self-made "Haykey scooterboard".
The former electronics technician was left paralysed from the waist down 16 years ago after a paragliding training flight in Queenstown went wrong. He was forced to crash-land in a paddock near Arrowtown and broke his back.
Told he would never walk again, Mr Kaariainen was in a wheelchair for three years. He pursued his rehabilitation aggressively so he could regain movement.
"Basically, I decided that I needed to get my exercise."
He acquired his first recumbent tricycle five years ago, and made an epic journey from Bluff to nearly halfway up the North Island to raise money and awareness for the Spinal Injury Trust.
He had intended to reach Cape Reinga, but nerve pain and fatigue, which he still experiences, got the better of him.
Mr Kaariainen has had the current model for three months. It folds up for convenience, and has customised pedals he designed and engineered himself.
The smaller "scootboard" that attaches to the back of the tricycle is an original design, which he hopes to release online in an open-source capacity.
Mr Kaariainen said he did not have the time or energy to market his invention commercially, and was seeking support from local IT businesses so that he could build a website to host the scootboard's details.
He said the machine began as a "cooler" alternative to a walking frame.
Because Mr Kaariainen still lacks feeling in his lower legs, he does not have sufficient balance to handle a traditional scooter, but prefers not to bother with crutches. "If there's nothing available that I like, I just have to design it myself."
He adapted a more stable three-wheeled version based on Scandinavian kicksleds.
The scootboard has other modifications, such as a smaller pair of handlebars mounted low at the front, which allow it to carry shopping bags or be steered by a child.
Mr Kaariainen said his machines' many admirers had often suggested that he add a motor, but the added fuel use would be unnecessary: "If I can ride a bicycle or tricycle, why can't they?"
He said his machines had drawn comments from strangers wherever he went.
"Everybody wants them. They don't actually realise I'm paraplegic, which is good - they just want [the machines] because they look cool."
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