Call for children's curfew in Merivale

By Julia Proverbs


Locals love living in Merivale, but it's a suburb that has problems with wayward youths. Now two mothers want drastic measures to take kids off the streets at night.

Children as young as 10 roam the streets at night in Merivale and two local mums want a curfew in place to stop it.

Worried for the safety of their children and grandchildren, Marian Adams and Lana Wharakura have called a meeting at the Merivale Action Centre at 6.30 tonight to discuss the problem.

"We fear for our children and our own safety," Ms Adams told the Bay of Plenty Times. "We're not comfortable in this neighbourhood anymore."

The women were spurred to action after a night of violence three weeks ago in which a teenage girl was sexually assaulted and, in a separate incident, a 20-year-old man stabbed.

On the same night, about 40 teenagers congregated in the street outside Ms Adams' house and began fighting with fists and bottles.

"We were fast asleep. The kids woke me up. My 10-year-old daughter was really scared. She said she had seen people out front attacking another kid," Ms Adams said.

"The next day I heard about the sexual violation. I've got three daughters and the eldest is 14. She was really quite disturbed by it."

Ms Adams, who has six children aged 4 to 16, said she had seen 10-year-old girls out at night on their own.

But her own children, who she described as "high achievers" had strict boundaries and rules.

Ms Adams said she had previously lived in Huntly where police had worked closely with the community to keep kids off the streets at night.

"The whole community came together ... it works." A curfew would empower parents, she said. "Kids would lose power - they have a lot of power at the moment."

Mrs Wharakura, who has two of her six children and three grandchildren living with her, said the meeting's aim was to share ideas and find out what residents wanted to do about the problem. "We have to take responsibility for it. All of us, as parents and as kids," she said.

"We're trying to keep our babies safe. They don't realise what they're walking into ... it could have been my baby. I would be blaming myself if anything happened to my babies because I wasn't on to it enough and there for them."

A Merivale teenager told the Bay of Plenty Times his three younger brothers, aged 13, 12 and 10, were regularly out at night. "They do what they want. Sometimes they don't come home until 1am," he said.

He said he didn't like living in Merivale because there was "too much drama and a lot of fighting".

Merivale Community Centre services manager John Fletcher supported a curfew.

The centre ran activities in the early evening for teenagers, but later in the evening they should be at home with their parents, he said.

"That doesn't happen and then you throw alcohol in the mix ... and all hell breaks loose."

Some parents were quite happy to get rid of their kids because they wanted to get on with their own lives, he added. "When young people are returned to their parents it puts the parents in the spotlight. It's a different sort of accountability."

Huntly Police senior sergeant Rupert Friend said a curfew was not lawful as it did not comply with freedom of movement, under the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act.

But under section 48 of the Children, Young Persons, and Their Families Act, police could take a child or young person, under the age of 17, back to their parent or guardian, or to a social worker, if their physical or mental health was being, or was likely to be, impaired.

"It's a very common power police all over New Zealand use to pick up young people at night and take them home," Mr Friend said.

The "curfew" Ms Adams referred to was likely to be wanted by the Neighbourhood Policing Team, which started in 2011, he said.

It was one of 33 teams established throughout New Zealand to work for up to five years in priority areas where people were more likely to be victims of crime. Merivale does not have such a team.


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