Three Flaxmere guardians have been appointed by the Hastings District Council in response to serious violence issues that have struck the heart of the community.

The official Kaitiaki (guardians) are aligned with the Flaxmere and City Assist teams with a particular responsibility for the library, community centre and pool.

A spate of violent incidents earlier this year came to a tragic head when Kelly Donner, 40, died outside a Flaxmere pub on March 4.

A 14-year-old male is now before the High Court in Napier on one charge of murder and four other teenagers, aged between 14 and 16, have been charged with wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm.


The Flaxmere library was also closed in March after the community centre posted a message on social media about a "nasty attack on a young member of the public".

The previous month police responded to a public attack on a teenager and his young cousin who were allegedly set upon by three people riding two horses in Swansea Village.

Hastings District councillor Jacoby Poulain with the new Kaitiaki (from left) John-Harley Wang, Sean Ferguson and Tihema Cooper. Photo/Supplied
Hastings District councillor Jacoby Poulain with the new Kaitiaki (from left) John-Harley Wang, Sean Ferguson and Tihema Cooper. Photo/Supplied

The offenders were described as in their early teens wearing red and black clothing and bandannas.

Hastings district councillor Jacoby Poulain said she believed Flaxmere needed extra support in light of the recent events.

"Flaxmere has been through a bit of a rough patch lately and I think the community needed a bit of moral support and presence, more than we currently have out there."

Poulain said while local police and assist teams were doing a great job the community needed more support.

"They're doing a wonderful job but I still think that they needed a bit more physical presence in the community centre and I believe our kaitiaki were brought along to help provide that sense of support to our community.

"It's about pulling them all together and increasing the presence so our community can feel safer."


The three kaitiaki, Tihema Cooper, John Harley Wang and Sean Ferguson, are set to work shifts during the opening hours of the Flaxmere community centre.

The Flaxmere library and community centre had more than 170,000 people through the doors last year and Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst said the Kaitiaki would help fulfil the vision the council had for the hub.

"The Flaxmere community hub is a place to connect people with each other and build a strong and vibrant community," she said.

Hastings District Council community facilities and programmes group manager Alison Banks said while while the Kaitiaki were a response to a number of serious violence issues, the picture was much broader than just one issue.

"The Kaitiaki have two functions; they are our eyes and ears in the community and they provide good role models for our youth – set good examples of appropriate public behaviour.

"They interact with the kids; they might play a game of basketball or table tennis with them; or just talk about how their day went or their goals and aspirations."

One of the Kaitiaki Wang, 24, said he got involved because he wanted to give back to the community he grew up in and loved playing sports with kids.

Banks said council had worked very closely with the community over the past few months to come up with a plan that everyone believed would make a difference.

Cooper said the team, who had been on site for five weeks, was interacting well with the community.

"It doesn't take long; once they know you are there for the right reasons and that you have an interest in them, they respect what you are trying to achieve."

Poulain said the team was a "good fit" for the community and loved Flaxmere.

"To me they are very representative of our community and I think they have a good heart and community connections."