Our carparks in safe hands

By Alexandra Newlove

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WDC's Owen Thomas with volunteers Ross Wagner, Moira Thompson, Diana Mehaffy and WDC's Dave Palmer form part of the team responsible for a community ambassador programme attracting high praise. Photo / John Stone
WDC's Owen Thomas with volunteers Ross Wagner, Moira Thompson, Diana Mehaffy and WDC's Dave Palmer form part of the team responsible for a community ambassador programme attracting high praise. Photo / John Stone

They're the smiling volunteers who have fended off hundreds of potential carpark break-ins over the last six years.

Whangarei District Council's Summer Safe Carpark programme is up for a national award, after six years of no break-ins or car thefts at nine popular attractions across the district during the times volunteers were on patrol.

As well as improving safety the volunteers, who came from 11 different community groups, greet visitors and give information around accommodation, directions, and other highlights in Whangarei.

Moira Thompson from Tiki Pride had been on patrol for four years at the Otuihau (Whangarei Falls) carpark.

"I thought, I've got some time to give, why not?" she said. "Whangarei has a lot to give and it's about showing people what we believe in and that our community can be better if we just put in a bit of effort and time."

Fellow Otuihau vollie Diana Mehaffy said the programme had increased the number of visitors to the Falls.

"People can't believe how much safer it is," she said.

"I walk a dog down here every morning. You'll see a car come in and start moseying around, so I'll just start picking up a bit of rubbish and looking like I belong to the place and it goes."

The programme has been named as a finalist in the 2016 Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) Excellence Awards and the scheme was believed to be the only one of its type in the country.

Ambassadors patrol between December and Easter and last season contributed almost 1500 hours of volunteer time.

WDC community services manager Owen Thomas said the programme operated around values of manaakitanga - respect, generosity and care for others.

"The work these people are doing is not only reducing crime but also increasing the number of visitors and the people who want to live here."

He said they were "always" seeking new volunteers and anyone interested could contact the community safety officer on 430 4200. Award winners will be announced at a gala dinner during the LGNZ Conference, July 24 to 26.

- Northern Advocate

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