Editorial: Let's make things safer

By editor, Craig Cooper

Craig Cooper, Editor Northern Advocate. PICTURE/Michael Cunningham
Craig Cooper, Editor Northern Advocate. PICTURE/Michael Cunningham

A few weeks ago there was an outpouring of sentiment from our readers about safety on Whangarei's streets.

The catalyst happened to be an incident involving my daughter.

But what happened is not just about my family.

There are many people who have been in similar situations over the years - robbed, chased, confronted, beaten or shaken up.

So here's what we know about the safety situation on our streets, and what I have learned over the past few weeks.

- There is widespread agreement that it is unacceptable

- Mostly, the offenders are young people

- Many are Maori

- Hundreds of people have stories just like mine

- Our town wants tourists to visit - if tourists come we are concerned they will be safe

- There are people doing great work in our community who can contribute to improving our image

- We have a problem with bullying

So what do we do? We need a plan to improve street safety. But we also need a plan to address bullying - it is too big an issue to ignore and lump in with the street safety plan.

Our domestic violence rate, our suicide rate, our depression rate - all of these things are screaming at us that we have a bullying issue.

So what do we do? Well, here's what I am doing. In the past few weeks and in the next few weeks I am talking to people and asking them what they think we need to do. I am using my journalism skills, and gathering information. I am also forming opinions and views of my own as we go along. But my focus is on asking people with skills and leadership roles in health, police, education, local government, social work, youth work and any other area that could be relevant - what do you think we should do?

There is strong support to make our region safer. We have the people in our community to do it. We have the desire.

And we have to recognise that there are short term things we can do, and long terms things.

When I have collected enough information to provide the basis of a decent plan, I will take it to our mayor, and other community leaders. Not with the expectation that the mayor solves the problem, but with the expectation that we all sit down together, respect the views and advice in front of us, and work out a plan as a collective.

But there's a big piece missing from the plan. We know that the community wants change - what are you doing to help make that change, and what do you think we as a community can do to make our streets safer. Email me at editor@northernadvocate.co.nz.

- Northern Advocate

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