Outrage over dangerous footpaths

Gaye Rowe suffered numerous fractures and bruising to her face.

An 85-year-old woman was forced to spend five nights in hospital after tripping over an uneven footpath in Warkworth, even though Auckland Transport (AT) has known about the hazard for years.

Retired Brick Bay resident Gaye Rowe was using the pedestrian crossing to cross Percy Street to reach the Warkworth New World supermarket on Thursday, February 7.   

When she reached the footpath at the end of the crossing, she says her toe “caught on something” and she fell forward on to her face.

Gaye sustained numerous fractures and bruising, especially around her right eye and cheekbone.

She says she did not lose consciousness and was aware of being quickly surrounded by people anxious to help.

A wheelchair was found and she was taken into the foyer of New World while an ambulance was called.

Gaye was first taken to Warkworth Medical Centre where staff directed that she should be taken immediately to North Shore Hospital.

In addition to having her wounds dressed, Gaye also underwent two scans to determine if she had suffered a brain injury.

Last week, she was due to travel to Middlemore Hospital to determine if surgery would be required.

Gaye says having to stay in hospital was “not much fun” and the footpath really needs to be fixed, as another elderly person could fall and sustain even worse injuries.

Her fall comes in the wake of complaints to AT over several years about the state of the same path.

Earlier this month, Warkworth resident Gay Callaghan wrote to Mahurangi Matters (MM February 13) saying she had tripped there around August 2017 after tree roots had lifted footpath pavers.

She broke two teeth in the accident and had to have expensive crowns fitted.

Rodney Councillor Greg Sayers says that at least one local business manager has complained about the footpath to AT numerous times, but nothing has been done.

Cr Sayers himself made a complaint in November 2017 and, again, no action was taken. He says he was told that AT, “did not think it was serious enough to spend any money fixing it”.

Cr Sayers says AT’s inaction is unacceptable and has left him fuming. He says that Gaye Rowe’s injuries were entirely preventable.

“Warkworth is being neglected, particularly when it comes to health and safety. It seems anywhere else in Auckland the footpath would have been fixed immediately, but we have to wait for an injury to occur,” he says.

Following Gaye’s accident, Cr Sayers phoned AT chief executive Shane Ellison, calling for a complete audit of pedestrian tripping hazards in Warkworth, including a notorious spot outside the ANZ bank in Queen Street.   

He followed it up with an email to AT’s executive general manager for integrated works, Mark Lambert.
It read, “I refuse to let Rodney’s residents be exposed to any preventable health or safety issues and request your urgent action to correct the poor state of all of Rodney’s township footpaths. Please be warned that I will apply my maximum efforts and use any and all the political avenues available to me to ensure the local community is safe,” he wrote.

Mr Lambert responded by setting out a plan for remedial works for Queen Street, Percy Street and elsewhere in Warkworth’s CBD.

AT’s preferred option in Percy Street is to remove the unhealthy trees, whose roots are lifting part of the footpath. This will require a resource consent that will take a minimum of three months to secure. In the meantime, AT is planning a temporary repair, which will see the removal of uplifted metal grates and replacement with concrete and mulch around the base of the trees. It’s hoped works can commence within two weeks.

The preferred option outside the ANZ Bank is to retain two healthy trees, whose roots are again causing cobbles to lift, and replace the cobbles with a layer of concrete. It’s hoped work could start early next month.

Following an audit of other trip hazards in Warkworth, AT has engaged Downers to start repairs, mainly minor grinding work and filling of ‘trip lips’.  

AT spokesperson Mark Hannan conceded the accident in Percy Street should never have happened and said AT apologised to Gaye Rowe.

An AT contractor checks out Warkworth footpaths after Gaye Rowe sustained serious injury.

Mahurangi Matters did a walk around the main centre of Warkworth for a first-hand audit and found further substandard footpaths. Hazards included eroded footpath and exposed bricks on the corner of Neville Street and Mill Lane, and broken tiling outside Westpac Bank on Baxter Street, as well as uneven surfaces throughout, particularly around access lids to underground services.

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