THREE women who want the crime and safety situation in Opotiki to improve will be at a public meeting on Friday, along with representatives of the deputy police commissioner and several Whakatane police staff members.
Te Whakatohea community representative Maude Maxwell said she had worked alongside Te Whakatohea and Tuhoe lawyer Tania Te Whenua to organise the community safety meeting, which will coincide with a community patrol hui, spearheaded by Kahu Abbot.
“We are looking at developing a safer community strategy,” she said.
“The deputy police commissioner has done this in 16 other locations, with good results.”
Deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha was initially scheduled to attend the meeting but had to attend a meeting in Canberra regarding the global impact of terrorism instead.
In his absence, Rotorua Acting Superintendent Anaru Pewhairangi, who is currently seconded to the office of the Deputy Police Commissioner, will attend on behalf of Mr Haumaha.
He will address the hui on community safety programmes which NZ Police have developed in conjunction with iwi and communities in other parts of New Zealand.
Superintendent Pewhairangi will also update Mr Haumana on the outcomes of the hui.
Waiariki District Maori responsiveness manager, Inspector Phillip Taikato, will attend to represent Bay of Plenty District Commander Andy McGregor and provide support in response to kaupapa Maori initiatives, including the impact of methamphetamine on small communities.
Ms Maxwell said deputy police commissioner Wally Haumaha and his team had the experience to assist with the problems that Opotiki was facing.
“I have also worked with Kahu Abbot, who has been researching the possibility of starting a community patrol,” she said.
“She has met with the Whakatane police, who will also be attending the meeting.”
Ms Maxwell said the Opotiki Neighbourhood Support group was also being re-activated.
“We used to have neighbourhood support here,” she said. “I don’t know what happened – perhaps we got complacent.”
A social media post asking the Opotiki community for interest in the community patrolling had resulted in lots of responses.
“There was heaps of people interested, between 20 and 30,” Ms Maxwell said.
Opotiki was not alone in facing crime problems, including youth crime.
“This is happening in Whakatane and Kawerau as well.”
Ms Maxwell said she was concerned about the behaviour of many youngsters in Opotiki.
“Sue Bradford did a shocking job of introducing the no-smacking bill in New Zealand,” she said.
However, it was not only the disappearance of consequences that had contributed to the problem, but also a rift in the social fabric.
“We used to look after one another, but these days neighbours are no longer talking to one another,” Ms Maxwell said.
“We used to go next door to ask for a cup of sugar or baking powder, perhaps an egg, but now that’s almost considered weird.”
The safer community strategy and community patrol meeting will be held on Friday, November 1 at the Memorial Park Pavilion, starting at 11am and going until “2pm or later”.
“We’ve had lots of apologies for this meeting, but we had to hold it during daytime,” Ms Maxwell said.