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Basin Reserve’s lack of facilities for women and disabled “unacceptable”

Wellington City councillor Fleur Fitzsimons says it’s unacceptable the Basin Reserve does not cater sufficiently for women and those with disabilities, but says the council is addressing the situation.

RNZ story by Zoë George from the podcast Fair Play.

Ladies Only sign at the Basin Reserve Photo: RNZ

This follows an investment by the council of $7 million into the refurbishment of the Museum Stand. The stand will be earthquake strengthened and the number of toilets for women and those with accessibility needs increased.

The cricket ground, which is described by the WCC as one of the top 10 grounds in the world, only has 27 toilets accessible to the public. Approximately twice as many are accessible to men than women and only two are accessibility toilets.

In the redesign of the Museum Stand and ground, the number of toilets will be increased to 57, with 33 accessible to women. The number of combined gender neutral and accessibility toilets rises to eight.

But that number still falls short of what is required under the Ministry of Business and Innovation’s toilet code and compliance calculator. According to New Zealand Cricket the ground has a capacity of 6000, meaning 100 toilets are required. Temporary toilets are trucked in for bigger events.

Because of the limited number of toilets for women at the Basin Reserve, some are queuing for up to 25 to 30 minutes. This is particularly prevalent on the eastern embankment, where there are only three cubicles available for women.

Fitzsimons says that the queues for the facilities are “totally unacceptable”.

“It’s a public venue,” she says. “Public money has built this amenity and we need to make sure it’s accessible to everyone.

“We need to make sure that our premiere Test cricket venue can adequately manage all the people that want to come watch cricket.”

The redesign of the toilets on the eastern embankment has been put on hold while the Get Welly Moving transport strategy is completed.

No public consultation is being sought by the council for the redesign of the toilet facilities.

Fitzsimons says there isn’t a requirement for the council to consult on that “level of detail” and the council is “well qualified in designing and installing toilets”.

Disabilities Rights Commissioner Paula Tesoriero urges the council to seek guidance from the wider community regarding the design of the toilets.

“There is no substitute for a disabled person themselves being involved in designing something for disabled people,” she says.

“The council has experts … but I would strongly urge disabled people are involved [so] the design is fit for purpose.”

Tesoriero says those with accessibility needs are less likely to attend games if there aren’t sufficient facilities.

“Access to toilets in New Zealand for disabled people is a real issue,” she says. “For many disabled people in the community they feel unable to go to events because they don’t have confidence that there will be truly accessible facilities. The end result is … disabled people can’t participate in events that everyone else has the opportunity to participate in.”

She also says combining gender neutral toilets with accessibility toilets is not “proper practice”.

“[Gender neutral and accessibility toilets] are not one in the same,” she says.

“Nobody should have to justify why they are using that bathroom.”

Member of Parliament and former international rugby player Louisa Wall acknowledges the WCC’s efforts.

“The issue is about provision that is driven by current demand,” she says.

“Historically men have liked cricket and gone to venues. But in a modern New Zealand we want to encourage equitable opportunities for all of us… that’s women, families, people with disabilities.

“When we make these decisions about how many [toilets] … it shouldn’t be driven by historical usage, but should be driven by how participative, how inclusive and how diverse we want New Zealand to be in the future.”

That diversity also includes the LGBTQI+ community, which makes up approximately 10 percent of the population.

Walls says it’s about ensuring there are facilities which presents no stigma or discrimination.

“They will have no issues about someone questioning their gender.”

Walls says the government’s health committee, of which she is a member, has been in discussions regarding better access to toilets, following a petition submitted by Nicole Thornton in 2017.

The petition addresses the need for immediate toilet access for those with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, pregnancy, or an ostomy bag.

One solution is handing out disposable urinals – often referred to as a “she-wee” – to women, a practice which has been seen at big events including Glastonbury, the London Marathon and the 2012 London Olympics.

But that solution that is not acceptable for Tesoriero. “I wouldn’t have the balance to use one… [and] to assume disabled people could use them universally is an issue.”

Wall agrees there are other ways of solving this problem.

“What we want is adequate provisions based on a statistic … we have the tools to determine how many [toilets] we need. The rules we have in place in New Zealand will mean we won’t need she-wees.”

Fitzsimons acknowledges the views of the MP and the Disability Rights Commissioner and will be taking them back to the council.

New Zealand Cricket says in a statement that it agrees the Basin is one of the best in the world, and that the organisation hires the venue off the Basin Reserve Trust – a council controlled organisation – which brings in temporary facilities for matches to comply with “best practice”.

“NZC is committed to scheduling international cricket at venues which offer all patrons a positive experience,” the statement says.

The Basin Reserve Trust and Cricket Wellington have been contacted for comment.