City assist ambassadors begin walking the streets of Hastings today with a brief to keep an eye on safety issues which have hung over the central business district for years.
Hastings District Council will spend about $40,000 on the city assist programme, a six-month trial based on a similar one run in Rotorua called City Guardians. The initiative involved people working as city ambassadors available to help people visiting Hastings.
Hastings Mayor Lawrence Yule said a part of their work would also be to record and report unruly behaviour or safety issues in the city centre.
"They will be there for a tourism purpose, to welcome and help people around the city, but also to help understand the security and safety issues we are facing."
Mr Yule said three people had been employed for the trial over the next six months. At least one city assist worker would be on duty every day of the week.
He also responded to comments posted on the Hawke's Bay Today Facebook page by reader Niki Warren of Hastings, who was worried about the number of young people congregating in the west end of the city, at bus stops near the intersection of Heretaunga St West and Tomoana Rd.
"All they do is create huge groups of mouthy disrespectful kids, teens and adults, all hanging outside McDonald's and Pak'nSave, [which equals] one scary area ... can't even drive through without being intimidated," the post said.
Mr Yule did not think moving bus stops was the answer but agreed young people were "intimidating some people".
"Shopkeepers will tell you there are people causing some problems in the CBD, showing a lack of respect, bad language, spitting in public.
"From today we will have the city assist people in town, the police have also upgraded their presence in the CBD and the council is actively at bylaws around anti-social behaviour."
The council had also formed an agreement to have Maori Wardens operating in the CBD, adding to city safety.
Mr Yule said the council's new skatepark will open on the outskirts of the CBD on October 6 and will shift a lot of young people out of the city centre.
"Ultimately that doesn't solve the entire problem though. These young people don't have role models, their parents aren't looking after them, they are out of school with no job prospects, they are bored and have no direction in their lives.
"This is really a social problem the council is dealing with."