Skaters bullied at Elles Rd, boys say

GWYNETH HYNDMAN
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013
Aiden Burgess
DOUG FIELD/Fairfax NZ

DANGER ZONE: Aiden Burgess, 8, Cobin Burgess, 13, and Taylor Hogan, 13, at the Elles Rd skate park where trains pass just metres away from the skate ramp.

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Children are being bullied at the skate park in Elles Rd, in Invercargill, and some want its replacement built in a safer location.

Taylor Hogan, 13, and his stepbrothers, Cobin Burgess, 13, and Aiden Burgess, 8, yesterday addressed Invercargill city councillors at their January meeting and told them Invercargill youth would be safer if the skate park was relocated to council land at Tay and Doon streets.

The council has announced it will proceed with a $550,000 skate park upgrade at the Elles Rd location, but the boys are hoping some of that money can be used to relocate the skate park.

Taylor said moving the park to an area that had better lighting and public visibility would deter bullies.

Most of the threats were verbal, though he had seen stones being thrown at some kids, he said.

The children who used the park regularly respected the space - the abuse usually came from others passing by, his mother, Kiri Burgess, said.

After the meeting, Mrs Burgess said city parents had discussed bullying behaviour at the skate park in online forums.

The boys and another man at the council meeting also told councillors the park was often covered in litter because there was only one rubbish container; there was no drinking fountain, and park users were not allowed to use the toilets at nearby Splash Palace.

They also cited wind exposure and the proximity to the railway lines as reasons for changing its location.

Last night, Cr Neil Boniface said the council had an open mind about the skate park location.

It was the first time he had heard about the bullying.

Mayor Tim Shadbolt said it was the first time he had heard of the Doon and Tay St location being suggested, though other areas in the city had also been suggested.

Exact costs for the new park were still being discussed, with Mr Shadbolt also indicating its location could yet be changed.

"Nothing is set in stone yet and there is a lot of water to go under the bridge."

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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