If you’ve ever been exhausted by a long bike ride, imagine adding a 50kg coffin to the back and cycling from Dunedin to Wellington. That’s exactly what Julian and Camilla Cox are doing this summer, all to raise awareness of a petition by Patient Voice Aotearoa to double Pharmac’s budget. The couple passed through Wānaka on January 9 and chatted to the Wānaka Sun about their journey so far.
New Zealand spends 55 percent less on medicines than the OECD average and Julian and Camilla are keen to change that. Their own 19-year-old daughter, Rachel, has cystic fibrosis and sits at only 30 percent lung capacity. The medicine that the Cox’s believe could help is waitlisted by Pharmac due to budget limitations. “We can’t afford to wait,” says Julian.
They decided to cycle up to Wellington, coffin and plastic skeleton in-tow, to “send a really strong message to government that a) people are literally dying without access to these medications and b) that we as a country need to be increasing our budget for these things.”
The couple left on January 3 and are expected to arrive in Wellington on January 22 in order to deliver the coffin and signatures at the steps of Parliament. They’ve had some trouble along the way, including an array of smoking brakes, loose spokes, flat tires and gailforce conditions. At each stop they’re gathering paper signatures to add to the 21,000 online signatures and said people have been generally supportive of their cause. No stranger to the Wānaka area, Camilla says “we have visited before, but when you go slowly on a bike, you see so much more, you notice the funny little things.”
Despite being avid cyclists, the Cox’s have struggled with the extra load and can go as slow as 5kmph with bad tailwinds, but in favourable conditions reach speeds of 20kmph. That being said, the Cox’s are not taking the easy route. Rather, in order to reach as many people as possible they’re doing a loop route for 10 days and cycling to Oamuru just outside of Dunedin, their starting point, before continuing the slow journey up to Wellington. If you want to sign the petition and learn more, go to https://rip.kiwi/get-involved