Hawke's Bay kids are carrying weapons on the streets to protect themselves, Sergeant Ross Stewart says.

The Hawke's Bay Youth Services co-ordinator said the number of youths arming themselves with knives, screwdrivers, hammers, tomahawks and the odd machete meant it was only a matter of time before tragedy struck.

"Kids are impulsive so they may carry a weapon for a real or what is probably in reality a perceived threat. When the threat actually appears they don't think about the consequences and that has always been my biggest fear."

The world has changed a lot since Stewart joined the police force in 1973, he says, so much so he wasn't surprised to hear about the homicide in Flaxmere early this month.


Kelly Alex Donner was found dead in the carpark of a Flaxmere pub, next to the Flaxmere Village Shopping centre, on March 4.

Four teenagers aged 14-16 have since been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm and are before the Hastings Youth Court.

Having worked with youth for 35 years, Stewart said the parenting practices of individuals and the community as a whole had to be called into question when any child was found on the streets at night.

"The kids that are running around late at night, are the parents checking them? That leads on to the next question, which is: are the parents able to parent?

"Do they know how to parent and if they don't know how to parent or are struggling, what can we do to empower them to parent?"

Stewart, an officer of New Zealand's order of merit, said there was no easy solution, but a community safety panel established earlier this week was a brilliant start.

"It's the Flaxmere community trying to solve Flaxmere's problems. The police can't solve Flaxmere's problems but the community working with us, Oranga Tamariki and everyone else can start to solve them."

Panel member Shelly Pritchard has lived in the neighbourhood for 46 years and said she wanted to achieve generational change for the community and for those to come.


"I don't just want this to be here for five minutes, it needs to be here for a lifetime.

"Too may times things have come into Flaxmere, we've just sat in the background and they've only stuck around for five minutes because things haven't worked."

Pritchard, who operated a mobile coffee van on Henderson Rd, Ka Pai Cuppa Waka, said the panel of six was seeking people from all walks of life who had talent, skills and the desire to wear their hearts on their sleeves to help the community.

Flaxmere safety panel member Shelly Pritchard wants the community to share ideas about how to address youth violence in the area. Photo/Warren Buckland.
Flaxmere safety panel member Shelly Pritchard wants the community to share ideas about how to address youth violence in the area. Photo/Warren Buckland.

She was offering her coffee stop as a place where youngsters could learn new skills and the community could bring ideas to help address youth violence in Flaxmere.

"It's about offering services to these kids out there who want to learn something different. We've never had a barista in Flaxmere."

Pritchard said no idea was silly and everyone was invited to play a part in creating a positive out of the tragedy of Donner's death.

"We have family out here who are part of the Mongrel Mob and we're embracing them, too.

"It's not about what anyone has got on their back or what colours they wear, it's about the talents they've got behind them.

"It's about what they can offer the community as a whole."

Stewart said community cohesion had a vital role to play.

"I wonder whether we have lost community cohesion as a family.

"I think back when I was a kid every mother in our street knew us, knew when we did wrong and would punish us when we did wrong or tell our parents.

"I don't think that's happening anymore."

His message to the community would be to look after each other, take responsibility for each other and change the world.

"Flaxmere is a great community. I could walk over to the village in uniform and most people would say kia ora. Most people would wave.

"Flaxmere is a good community and I think it gets kicked way too often. It has got its problems but, at the heart of Flaxmere, it's a good community."