Martine Rolls: Street has a bad name

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The street I live on in Welcome Bay has a bad reputation.

When I was looking for a place to rent and found one there nearly five years ago, people asked me if I had lost my mind.

I moved into this street because I couldn't afford to live in a better area at the time, and because one of Tauranga's best primary schools is around the corner.

In the past five years, I've had the police knocking on my door once or twice looking for someone I didn't know.

I notice the rubbish on the street and the tinnie houses. I've heard domestics and seen the odd fight. There have been two AOS raids that I am aware of, and loud parties take place on Thursday nights.

Men with patched leather jackets work on their bikes and cars on the driveway opposite mine most days and when I walk passed, I say "hello."

They say "good day" back, and that's all it is. No intimidation, no hassle, no worries.

The picture I am painting may look a little rough to you but guess what? It doesn't bother me that much.

Sure, it is not the best street in Tauranga but I can deal with that.

Not once in the past five years have I worried about my safety.

I have moved house twice since, but I am still on the same street and have no intention to leave any time soon.

I get on great with my neighbours. We look out for each other, share dinners, mind each other's kids, and help where needed.

Nobody on our street has much money, but the people who live around me have the biggest hearts.

The stigma of living on one of Tauranga's roughest streets doesn't bother us much.<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

So, would I want to live in Merivale?

Merivale is possibly Tauranga's poorest suburb and arguably the most judged, writes Carly Gibbs in a feature that was published in the Bay of Plenty Times Weekend on Saturday.

"Some people genuinely feel unsafe in the community and wouldn't go to the shops, and wouldn't let their kids go to the playground. Those are real perceptions but they don't match with the reality of what's actually happening. The majority may have 'heard' of a bad experience (not experienced it)", said Merivale Community Centre manager Graham Cameron in the article.

One of the comments on the stories we published on Merivale in the past week was from someone who has worked in the suburb, and one of the things he said was: "It has more than its share of lowlifes detracting from the rest who are just trying to make a life for themselves."

I guess that is how it goes, and it goes both ways.

People are getting more intolerant but those who are terrorising their neighbourhoods and being increasingly disrespectful to others also need to get their act together.

For a community to move forward and to eventually change public perception, they will have to make it work together.

As far as I can see, that is exactly what the people of Merivale are doing, and I think we should cut them some slack.

Rotten apples will always be there. Not just in Merivale or Welcome Bay. Racists and ignorant people will always be around, too. They pop up on both sides of the fence.

Life would be so much better if people would judge and begrudge a little less. There is no need to be afraid of what you don't know. Diversity is a good thing. It makes a community, and a culture, much more interesting.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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