Editorial: Enlightened or insulting?

PETER O'NEILL
Last updated 05:00 30/05/2014

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OPINION: I wonder if the Timaru District Council has considered a sister city arrangement with Seoul, South Korea?

Seoul has, after all, just undergone an inner city refresh. Kind of like the one we are looking at.

I know this because of a story on our international page yesterday.

The headline caught my attention: "Women's parking spaces upset half the population". And the photograph, which showed "women-friendly" car-parking spaces marked out in pink and of slightly wider dimensions than "normal" parks.

No, I did not smile. That would indicate an element of chauvinism of the pork variety.

I may, however, have said something to my wife. She may have said something back. The conversation may then have ceased.

But there was more to this story. South Korean cities have been doing this since 2009, but it's only just reached Seoul. The ultimate aim is to make women feel safer.

Other ways to achieve this include smoother footpaths to make it easier to walk in high heels (now that we can all relate to here, heel-wearers or not), and more public toilets for women.

These seem like good initiatives, but I wonder how they would be viewed here. So many questions.

Is this enlightened town planning, or insulting?

Would our human rights laws even allow a council to put in wider parks for a sector of the population other than the disabled?

How does the Seoul city council police the female parks? Do men dare park in them?

But, really, there is one serious question to ask in all of this.

If in South Korea they have identified that they need to do something to make their cities feel safer or more user friendly, do we have any similar standout issues here?

Do people deliberately avoid or limit their central business district visits and if so, why?

The Timaru District Council is bringing together working groups from which initial CBD refresh concepts will be developed, after which public feedback will be sought. This is for Timaru and rural towns. So get your thinking caps on.

Oh, one more question.

If the headline "Women's parking spaces upset half the population" is accurate, which half of the population would be most upset?

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- The Timaru Herald

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