Fishing on a boat isn't often considered a sport that people with disabilities can enjoy, but a non-profit charity based in Tauranga is trying to change that.
In 2007, Bryce Dinneen broke his neck in a diving accident leaving him a C4 tetraplegic for the rest of his life. A mad keen fisho, he decided early on that he wouldn’t let his disability get in the way of him enjoying his favourite sport. Not only that, but Bryce also vowed that he would support others with disabilities to get out on the water, too.
Bryce founded the Wish4Fish Charitable Trust in 2018 and fundraised to build a $2.4m purpose-built vessel. Since its inception,Wish4Fish has organised multiple successful fishing trips, with the charity taking over 350 people with disabilities out on the water.
Wish4FishNZ believes that everyone, regardless of their ability, should have the opportunity to participate in outdoor activities like fishing. Bryce was recently awarded the New Zealand Order of Merit for his services to people with disabilities.
Earlier this year, I was privileged to be invited to assist the Wish4Fish crew on a day out in the Hauraki Gulf to check out the operation.
Having grown up with a tetraplegic neighbour whom I often took on outings and helped out around the house, I could see from the get-go that this boat had been well-designed and built with the disabled in mind.
A hoist is mounted on the starboard side of the boat to bring people in wheelchairs aboard. Once aboard the vessel, participants receive a safety briefing, are shown how to use the adaptive equipment available, and are given instruction on how to fish while onboard the specially designed boat.
Participants can access the flybridge where the helm is situated via a lift with the assistance of the crew. The boat makes the trips as comfortable and stress-free as possible for disabled clients and their carers.
Wish4FishNZ is now run by a group of dedicated volunteers who are passionate about creating an inclusive society through outdoor activities like fishing. The organisation is funded by donations and sponsorships, and all donations go towards organising fishing trips and providing equipment to participants.
Looking forward, Wish4FishNZ plans to expand its reach and provide more inclusive fishing experiences for individuals with disabilities. The charity's commitment to creating a more inclusive society through outdoor activities like fishing is inspiring, and they're making a difference in the lives of those who participate.
As Wish4FishNZ says, "Fishing is for everyone, and it's up to us to make sure that people with disabilities have equal access to these opportunities." With their dedicated volunteers and support from the community,?Wish4Fish?NZ is making that goal a reality.
- Chris Grainger, Wish4Fish NZ