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Top Teen Skateboarder Stoked As Council Does A 180 On New Skatepark

Leah and Wayne Temara with their son Dante, 13, at the Sheaf Park skate park. Photo / Andrew Warner

“It’s like you’re in another world."

This is how 13-year-old Rotorua competitive skateboarder Dante Temara describes how he feels when riding his board.

The trouble is, he says he has to leave his hometown to find a smooth enough surface to train on.

Dante, who is among New Zealand’s top teen skateboarders and has competed in Australia, now hopes the inclusion of a new multisport facility in Rotorua Lakes Council’s 10-year plan means he will eventually be able to compete on home turf.

The chairman of the trust aiming to fill a funding shortfall for the project says the action sports community is thrilled, and the skatepark will be a good investment for the city.

Conversations about a new multisport skatepark for the inner-city Kuirau Park began in 2015.

Rotorua Lakes Council pre-loaded the site, costing $94,000, and earmarked a $750,000 contribution towards the total cost of $2.5m.

With no solution to the funding shortfall, however, more significant progress on the project stalled and last year the council voted to delay it by a year as it looked to limit costs.

But when the council’s draft long-term plan came out in April, the skatepark was left off.

Since then, councillors have heard passionate pleas to save the project from the action sports community and family of late former councillor Charles Sturt, who advocated for the park’s development.

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Others echoed what last year’s submitters said about existing skate parks, described as sunken concrete “death traps”, with concrete rougher than an “industrial cheese grater”. The council has said it maintains its facilities and removed deteriorated features.

Last week councillors voted to put the skatepark project into the finalised 10-year plan and contribute $650,000 in its third year to give the Rotorua Action Sports Charitable Trust time to raise the rest of the funding.

The trust was established last year for that purpose.

Chairman Ryan Gray said the entire action-sports community was “thrilled the council listened” to its pleas.

“We have been getting excited messages from across the country from people looking forward to Rotorua being on the map again for places to visit because of a new skatepark.”

Gray said the trust had met with skatepark builders to understand how inflation would have impacted cost estimates, and was working with the community to ensure the 2017 concept design was still fit-for-purpose. The trust would also meet with councillors and council officials.

“While we have had positive conversations with funders, much of this was put on ice after [the] council signalled they were withdrawing funding for a new park last year.”

Gray said when communities had facilities to be proud of and places to connect with people and push their abilities, “we are all better off”.

He expected the council’s contribution would be “more than offset” by hosting events and would also have health and social benefits by getting more people involved in action sports.

'Skateboarding means a lot to me’

Top skateboarder Dante’s parents Wayne and Leah Temara often take him to nearby towns and cities to train at better facilities.

Speaking to Local Democracy Reporting at Rotorua’s Sheaf Park skate park, Wayne pointed out the rough concrete and plywood structures he skated when he was Dante’s age.

At submission hearings Dante highlighted to councillors the difference between the Rotorua facility and others he visited.

The skateboarding teen said a new park would help him progress and enhance his skills for competing overseas.

Recent accolades include wins in the U17 boys’ category at Panmure Skate Competition and U15 boys’ at H-Town Skate Project Competition, and coming 12th overall in the Open Mens Division at the New Zealand Skateboard Nationals in Gisborne in September.

“Skateboarding means a lot to me. It’s my passion.

“[Its] something to do when I’m angry, or it’s a way to vent – to get rid of my emotions – and it’s just like you’re in another world and you’re kind of just zoned into yourself when you’re skating.”

When he met people through skating he would often travel to other places to catch up, but believed a better skatepark in Rotorua would bring people to the city.

It could also attract competition events, which had not been held in Rotorua in “probably over 20 years”.

“That would be so cool, here in my hometown.”

Wayne said it was about watching kids have fun.

“For me, it’s about our community, it gets them active, our rangatahi, our kids, it gives them that safe space to be active in and explore new boundaries in sports.”

The trust was being proactive, he said, in finding the remaining funding.

- LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.

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