KATE Wood-Pahuru first noticed the Bridge Street blue heeler statue while driving in town a couple of months ago.
Her initial impressions immediately ran to Muswellbrook’s low vision community, including her husband Ross Pahuru.
“Being a sighted guide, you’re always on the lookout for any sort of problems,” she said.
“So we went back and rang council and put in a complaint about it, which saw the barrier then go up.”
Muswellbrook Shire Council installed the artwork in June as a tribute to the contribution of the quintessential Australian working dog to rural life.
Mr Pahuru said it would be fine if council placed the piece of art kerbside, but has been told there were water and power facilities underground which could not be disturbed.
“As far as we know, there was no public consultation with anyone,” Mr Pahuru said.
“They didn’t even follow their own policies and procedures – it’s just so badly placed.
“I think it’s a nice dog, but I think it’s in the wrong place.”
Ms Wood Pahuru said council was going against its own policies in a number of areas.
“You have the tables and chairs [at nearby cafés] also up against the building,” she said.
“This is not the fault of the shop owners, it’s just a matter of awareness, but it’s up to council to actually work towards that awareness as well.
“It’s not a safe environment for our low vision community.
“We do have quite a few [low vision] people.
“But, where the dog’s situated, it’s not just about vision, it’s about people walking out who are distracted and they can walk into the dog.”
Not just a bother for adults, Muswellbrook mother Addie Parker is concerned about the safety of her son Cruz, 6, who is vision impaired.
Cruz is beginning to learn how to use a cane, with the help of orientation and mobility specialist Nathan Burford from Guide Dogs NSW/ACT.
“I’m working with Cruz and his family to try to build up his independence,” Mr Burford said.
“One of those things is so that he doesn’t have to hold mum’s hand all the time.
“We’re training him to be able to hold his cane in one hand, and trail the building line in the other hand.
“The trouble with that is that this [dog] is not only an obstacle, it’s actually a hazard, because the cane goes straight under and you can’t detect it.
“It’s a lethal hazard for him because he can smack his head and get a permanent brain injury, or worse.
“I’d be really concerned for council’s point of view, that they’re putting themselves at risk by not complying with their own policies.”
Ms Parker said her son’s head was at the height of the dog’s snout.
“Council has also commented that they’re looking at putting bollards and chains around it,” she said.
“But, Cruz’s cane – anyone’s cane – won’t detect it before the snout.”
“If you design an environment that meets the needs of people with disabilities, it actually suits other people as well,” Mr Pahuru said.
“For example, at the train stations, the PA systems are brilliant for people like me who can’t see, but also good for people who don’t understand written word with low literacy levels as well.
“It just makes life a lot easier for everybody.”
“Nobody is affected if the stature isn’t there, but we do have sectors of the community that are, if it remains where it is,” added Ms Wood-Pahuru.
“The simple thing would be just to move it.
“We don’t want it destroyed – it’s a beautiful statue.
“We’re just asking that it’s moved to somewhere more appropriate.”
Council’s Disability Inclusion Strategies, Plans and Actions in Muswellbrook Shire 2017-2021 can be viewed at www.muswellbrook.nsw.gov.au