Tribute to a walking champion - Wellington City Councillor Chris Calvi-Freeman

My name is Murray Darroch and since the beginning of the 21st century I have been living in Tawa, Wellington.   During the period 1973-1989 I lived in Hataitai at 14 Hepara Street.

I recall in the late 1970s that you and I along with others were actively involved in the Hataitai Residents Assn.   As I recall you and I were on the executive of the Assn along with a woman who was active in Action for the Environment.  Her surname was Henderson.  You would have a better memory than me, so you will recall her first name.  She and her husband (who had the same surname) lived along the eastern extension of Waipapa Terrace.

One of the things as the Hataitai Residents Assn you and I and others did was to put on gas masks and walk through the pedestrian access route of the Mount Victoria road tunnel to mark the 50th anniversary of the opening of the road tunnel - the purpose of the walk being to demonstrate the appallingly bad air that the tunnel had, and the fact that the extraction fans that were in place in the tunnel were not fit for purpose, and there needed to be far better ventilation in the tunnel.   

We had print media coverage and I was interviewed on National Radio.  At that time Wellington East Girls College was considering banning its pupils from using the tunnel pedestrian access because of risk of assault.  Our point we as the Hataitai Residents Assn made was, if the air quality environment in the tunnel could be improved, then more pedestrians would use the tunnel & thereby it would become safer for Wellington East Girls College's pupils. Our efforts were rewarded as over time there has been improvements in the extraction fan system.

But the most important thing the Hataitai Residents Assn did was to support you in the the incredibly good advocacy work you did in the late 1970s in getting the pedestrian footbridge designed and built close to the eastern end of the Mount Victoria Road Tunnel to link the suburb of Hataitai with the area of Hataitai park where the velodrome and other sports facilities are located.

You came up with the concept.

You also produced the broad concept plans and picture diagrams to illustrate what you had in mind.

And when City Councillors (like my late mother-in-law Betty Campbell who lived in Waipapa Terrace) expressed doubt about your plans, you produced a paper mache three dimensional appropriately scaled model to show them precisely in terms they could understand and support.   Once Mayor Michael Fowler and Councillor Betty Campbell saw the model they were convinced of the merits of the proposed project.  And other City Councillors came on board as supporters.

And the evening the City Council agreed to the proposal at a full Council meeting, the very next morning there was a picture of you and your scaled model on the front page of the Dominion newspaper and someone in Nelson who manufactured laminated beams for school gyms contacted you and said he could construct your proposed footbridge and you were able to connect him up with the City Engineer.   

And that is how I recall that the footbridge came about.

It is my view that there are probably people alive today who would otherwise have been killed and become pedestrian road fatalities - that is if your footbridge had never been built.  With no footbridge in place, crossing the road either way was a high risk enterprise.  

I thought I should place on record your achievements as I remember them back in the late 1970s.

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