It has been another overwhelmingly busy holiday period for organisations looking after vulnerable women and children escaping domestic violence in Tauranga.

Hazel Hape, manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, was on call over Christmas and New Year, along with two others, covering all of Tauranga Moana.

She said on New Year's Day their four-bedroom refuge was at capacity, and women and children were having to be referred elsewhere – to other refuges around the country, or to family and friends.

"Which, quite frankly, is just not acceptable. Why do women and children have to be relocated from their home, from their community, from their families, their whānau and their schools because of someone else's violence and abuse?"

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Hape said she had to follow up on 10 family harm incidents on New Year's Eve – a Monday – from police family harm referrals over that weekend.

Between Christmas Eve and December 31, there were a total of 30 cases followed up, she said, which were referrals from high-risk family harm police incident reports.

That involved making contact with the victims (sometimes in hospital), doing health and safety checks, seeing if they need any support or somewhere to go, or linking them with a lawyer for protection orders.

Hape said increased financial pressures, alcohol consumption and parenting disputes were all contributing factors during the holidays.

"My advice to men is, if they need help to address their violence and abuse, talk with strong allies, friends and men that they know who may be able to help, or contact community support services here in Tauranga for help as violence and abuse is never okay.

"Women should not have to endure violence or the notion that they need to seek help when they are not the ones perpetuating the violence."

Hape said refuges were under-resourced and under-funded and were left to pick up the pieces 24/7 while most other non-governmental organisations were shut for the holidays, and that could be overwhelming.

She said the holiday period could be a "stressful and traumatic time" for women and children experiencing domestic violence.

On Boxing Day, three families entered Tauranga Women's Refuge, Hape said.

Hazel Hape, manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, said the holiday period could be a stressful and traumatic time for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Photo / George Novak
Hazel Hape, manager of Tauranga Women's Refuge, said the holiday period could be a stressful and traumatic time for women and children experiencing domestic violence. Photo / George Novak

And between Boxing Day and January 1, she had to refer at least 10 other families elsewhere when they phoned the crisis line, or turned up to the community office.

There was no more room at the safe house.

"Protection orders continue to be issued, police safety orders continue to be issued, women and children continue to come into our whare as a result of domestic violence," Hape said.

"We are seeing some really concerning levels of violence towards women and children in Tauranga."

Margie Dinwoodie, acting co-ordinator at Shakti Ethnic Women's Support Group – Central Region, said last week the holiday period was one of the organisation's busiest and that its safe house in Tauranga was full.

"We are not able to accommodate any more new clients at the moment as we just had a recent pickup," she said.

Dinwoodie said while she could not pinpoint any particular reasons for the trend, it could have something to do with the many changes that families go through at this time of year in terms of employment, location, or changes to household dynamics when other family members visit and stay.

She said there could be added pressures for ethnic women at times when extended families visit and gather together.

Meanwhile, Inspector Zane Smith, the police acting area commander for Western Bay of Plenty, said the Christmas holiday period could be very challenging for some families, "and sadly while many of us look forward to it, for others this time of year only brings a sense of dread".

"Financial and family stress, often combined with the consumption of alcohol, can contribute to an increase in family harm incidents. Police generally receive more calls to this type of incident over the holiday period."

Smith said the police worked actively with victims and partner agencies to ensure suitable support and safety plans were in place for families and individuals known or identified to be at risk.

"We would encourage anyone who fears for their own or someone else's safety to dial 111," he said.

"Family violence is never okay, but it is okay to ask for help. Do not ignore family violence – your call could save a life."


Where to get help
•If you or someone you know are in immediate danger, phone the police on 111.
•If you're worried about a child and want to make a referral or report of concern, phone Oranga Tamariki on 0508 326 459.
•You can phone the Tauranga Women's Refuge crisis phone on 07 541 1911, or call 0800 TO REFUGE (0800 86 733843).
•You can contact Shakti Ethnic Women's Support Group on its 24/7 multi-lingual crisis line 0800 SHAKTI (0800 742 584). Shakti's Tauranga number is (07) 579 0532.