Miria's travel plight

Woman stranded in Gisborne and feeling discriminated against as buses and airline can't help.

Woman stranded in Gisborne and feeling discriminated against as buses and airline can't help.

CAN'T LEAVE GISBORNE: Miria Peachey is a woman, a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, artist, community volunteer and a paraplegic. The last description has meant she can't leave Gisborne because Air New Zealand and InterCity staff are not allowed to help her on board because of health and safety issues. Her husband, who used to help her, now has his own health issues and can no longer assist her. Picture by Rebecca Grunwell

MIRIA Peachey is frustrated because she can't leave Gisborne on her own.

InterCity will not sell her a ticket for the bus, Air New Zealand will only sell her a plane ticket if she has someone to help her at each end and she cannot drive long distances.

Mrs Peachey feels stuck in Gisborne because she is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair. In 1985, at the age of 28, she was knocked down by a drunk driver while crossing Gladstone Road with her then-boyfriend.

She was working as a nurse aide at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland and the pair were visiting Gisborne at the time.

The couple went on to marry, made Gisborne their home and now have five children, 12 mokopuna and two great-mokopuna.

“It is God’s grace that he has stayed with me,” she said of her husband. “Even though I am in this wheelchair it has not stopped me living.”

Mrs Peachey describes herself as a “people person” and artist, who spends her time doing volunteer work in the community and painting. She is also an ordained prison chaplain.

She uses a motorised wheelchair around her home and in town, and can drive short distances in her specially-adapted car.

When she used to travel out of town, she used a manual wheelchair because it was easier to fold up.

She can easily get into an aeroplane seat with help from airport staff but can no longer rely on her husband to be at the Gisborne end, or to drive her long distances, because of his own health issues.

She feels discriminated against by the lack of travel options “and that hurts”.

Air New Zealand and InterCity Group said their staff could not assist Mrs Peachey for health and safety reasons.

Not able to attend tangi

It all came to a head last December when she booked a plane ticket to attend her sister-in-law’s tangi in Auckland.

When she arrived at Gisborne Airport, she was not allowed to board the plane because she did not have someone with her to help her into the plane seat.

Desperate to get to the tangi, as all the family were expecting her, she jumped into her specially-adapted car and started driving.

She was pulled over by police and, because her licence had expired and she is not supposed to drive long distances, her car was impounded.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline had been working with Mrs Peachey for some time to enable her to independently travel on their services.

“One option available to her for domestic travel is having a safety assistant at the departure and arrival airports to lift and transfer her to and from her seat without the need to travel on the flight itself.

“Air NZ staff are unable to perform this transfer for health and safety reasons. Unfortunately this customer has turned up in the past without a safety assistant and as such has been unable to travel,” she said.

“We do welcome this customer to get in touch with us again so we can ensure any future travel with the airline is seamless.”

InterCity Group online sales & marketing general manager Daniel Rode said their high-sided coaches were not equipped with boarding ramps.

“As our drivers travel alone we do have some limitations regarding the level of assistance we are able to provide and therefore passengers must be able to stand unaided when boarding and disembarking the bus.”

Mr Rode said passengers who required somebody to lift them on and off the bus had to arrange for this assistance at pick-up and drop-off points.

“For health and safety reasons, drivers are not permitted to assist in carrying of passengers. We welcome passengers requiring special assistance and will do our best to assist you in any way we can.”

MIRIA Peachey is frustrated because she can't leave Gisborne on her own.

InterCity will not sell her a ticket for the bus, Air New Zealand will only sell her a plane ticket if she has someone to help her at each end and she cannot drive long distances.

Mrs Peachey feels stuck in Gisborne because she is a paraplegic who uses a wheelchair. In 1985, at the age of 28, she was knocked down by a drunk driver while crossing Gladstone Road with her then-boyfriend.

She was working as a nurse aide at Middlemore Hospital in Auckland and the pair were visiting Gisborne at the time.

The couple went on to marry, made Gisborne their home and now have five children, 12 mokopuna and two great-mokopuna.

“It is God’s grace that he has stayed with me,” she said of her husband. “Even though I am in this wheelchair it has not stopped me living.”

Mrs Peachey describes herself as a “people person” and artist, who spends her time doing volunteer work in the community and painting. She is also an ordained prison chaplain.

She uses a motorised wheelchair around her home and in town, and can drive short distances in her specially-adapted car.

When she used to travel out of town, she used a manual wheelchair because it was easier to fold up.

She can easily get into an aeroplane seat with help from airport staff but can no longer rely on her husband to be at the Gisborne end, or to drive her long distances, because of his own health issues.

She feels discriminated against by the lack of travel options “and that hurts”.

Air New Zealand and InterCity Group said their staff could not assist Mrs Peachey for health and safety reasons.

Not able to attend tangi

It all came to a head last December when she booked a plane ticket to attend her sister-in-law’s tangi in Auckland.

When she arrived at Gisborne Airport, she was not allowed to board the plane because she did not have someone with her to help her into the plane seat.

Desperate to get to the tangi, as all the family were expecting her, she jumped into her specially-adapted car and started driving.

She was pulled over by police and, because her licence had expired and she is not supposed to drive long distances, her car was impounded.

An Air New Zealand spokeswoman said the airline had been working with Mrs Peachey for some time to enable her to independently travel on their services.

“One option available to her for domestic travel is having a safety assistant at the departure and arrival airports to lift and transfer her to and from her seat without the need to travel on the flight itself.

“Air NZ staff are unable to perform this transfer for health and safety reasons. Unfortunately this customer has turned up in the past without a safety assistant and as such has been unable to travel,” she said.

“We do welcome this customer to get in touch with us again so we can ensure any future travel with the airline is seamless.”

InterCity Group online sales & marketing general manager Daniel Rode said their high-sided coaches were not equipped with boarding ramps.

“As our drivers travel alone we do have some limitations regarding the level of assistance we are able to provide and therefore passengers must be able to stand unaided when boarding and disembarking the bus.”

Mr Rode said passengers who required somebody to lift them on and off the bus had to arrange for this assistance at pick-up and drop-off points.

“For health and safety reasons, drivers are not permitted to assist in carrying of passengers. We welcome passengers requiring special assistance and will do our best to assist you in any way we can.”

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