Fishing Offers Therapeutic Power

Fishing and boating are some of the most popular activities in New Zealand, providing sport and recreation opportunities, time spent in the outdoors, fun, and getting away from the hustle and bustle of the shores. People with physical disabilities or mental unwellness often can’t enjoy these activities due to accessibility.

Wish4Fish is a charitable trust enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities by providing opportunities to enjoy the freedom and pleasure of being on the ocean. Local man Bryce Dinneen founded the Trust in 2011 after suffering a high-level spinal injury whilst diving in 2007. The fear of considering he’d never fish again resulted in building an accessible boat suitable for individuals with disabilities to get on the water to go fishing.

The Trust not only supports those with physical or intellectual disabilities, but also those with mental unwellness, illness and financial hardship. Each trip is provided free of charge to disability and non-profit organisations, as well as individuals who are not associated to a support organisation.

Tony Pearce, General Manager of Wish4Fish, says the Trust is determined to promote positive attitudes around accessibility and inclusivity, by making memorable fishing experiences more accessible to all people.

“We aim to enhance their well-being, confidence, and overall quality of life. Each trip offers our participants the opportunity to have an adventure, build camaraderie, and develop a sense of achievement to boost self-esteem.”

“We often have participants express how empowered a fishing trip makes them feel. They change from being seen as someone with a disability to someone providing kai moana to their whanau. It’s a great form of therapy, which makes them feel valued,” says Tony, “You can physically see the positive outcomes in their self-esteem through their faces, eyes and body language, and the benefits go beyond the day spent on the water.”

Wish4Fish’s unique, fully accessible vessel is a great asset for the Western Bay of Plenty community as there is nothing like it in New Zealand or globally. With a capacity for 49 passengers – 10 wheelchair users, support staff and crew, the boat is designed with wheelchair users in mind, with an accessible bathroom, onboard wheelchair lift, high displacement catamaran for increased stability onboard and a specially designed loading system.  

TECT Chairperson Bill Holland says TECT aims to help create a thriving, caring and connected community in the Western Bay. Wish4Fish is determined to foster social change and make a profound impact on the lives of those with disabilities or mental unwellness.

“By supporting Wish4Fish with $40,000 of funding, we can assist in creating positive change for individuals this Trust was founded for, enriching lives and aiding further integration, inclusion and diversity within our community,” says Bill, “This helps achieve our purpose by impacting the quality of life and wellbeing for current and future generations in the Western Bay as this Trust grows and is capable of providing to more participants.”

As Wish4Fish continues to operate and demand grows, the team are looking to the future and what else they can do above taking 1,000 plus people and their carers on fishing trips. Plans to do overnight adventures and new specialised equipment will offer more enjoyment on the water for those with disabilities. The plan is to take one step at a time, always starting and ending with enhancing participants' lives by delivering the best experiences possible.

To learn more about Wish 4 Fish, head to their website.


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