Hutt City Council Deputy Mayor Tui Lewis cut the ribbon to open the mat, designed to help anyone facing mobility challenges enjoy the beach.
Deputy Mayor Lewis said the mat was part of Council’s commitment to make the Hutt more accessible to everyone.
“As we heard today there is 24 per cent of our population that has some kind of disability, and this Council is all about making all of our wonderful places accessible to all.
“The number of people down here for this opening on a windy old day like today shows the depth of public support for this project.”
The Beach Access Mat’s popularity with users will be trialled until March next year, then they will be rolled up during the cooler months and available to hire for community events and activities.
Deputy Mayor Lewis congratulated the Accessibility and Inclusiveness Panel for the work it had done with Council to help make the mat a reality.
Panel member Genevieve McLachlan thanked the Council for helping make Days Bay beach open for all.
“Going to the beach has been the one thing I have missed the most since being in a wheelchair, finally we can now do something everyone else can do.
“My ultimate goal is to have one of these on every beach in the Wellington Region.”
The new mat has also been welcomed by the wider disabled community in New Zealand, with the Disabled Persons Assembly (DPA) praising the Council for being one of only two Council’s in the country to have installed the mats.
DPA Chief Executive Prudence Walker said the new mats represented “great news for disabled people, their friends and families”.
“For many disabled people having a picnic on the beach with their family or friends hasn’t been on the summer holiday to-do list in the past, because the beaches in our region are inaccessible.
“With the Beach Access Mat, this summer Days Bay Beach will be accessible to everyone.
“The news of the launch has created a bit of a buzz among the disabled community.
“People around the country are calling for similar initiatives for beaches in their own area, we hope other councils will follow the Hutt’s example.”
Linda Kortegast travelled down from Waitarere Beach, near Levin, with her daughter Emma, who is in a wheelchair, just to see the mats in action.
“I think the mats are really good, I think all beaches should have them, at the moment getting on the beach is terrible, my daughter’s wheelchair just sinks into the sand.
“With these mats my daughter can get onto the beach just like everyone else instead of sitting in the car and seeing it from there.
“My council in Levin should get one for sure.”
Tania Bowkett from C1 South, which supplied the mat, said everyone should be able to enjoy the “kiwi tradition” of enjoying the beach.
“It’s a kiwi tradition that everybody should be able to access the beach, my biggest memory as a child was always going to the beach, and as a child I never worried about getting through the soft sand and into the water.
“I’m a bit older now than I used to be, and I would choose to walk on the mat, because you can sink into the sand, it’s ideal for someone who might have a walking stick, mum and dad who have got a pram or a buggy.
“I think it’s fantastic that Hutt City Council has invested in these mats, I hope it encourages a whole lot of other councils to get on board.”