This was one of the most difficult columns to write.
On the one hand, there are amazing, wonderful things happening in our district. We have a community that comes together in celebration of events such as Matariki; volunteers complete communal projects and help those in need, and we all support each other in stressful situations such as the Covid-19 lockdowns of 2020.
There are exciting projects under way to invigorate and enhance our district, and we're working hard behind the scenes in sustainability and climate change adaption spaces. We also have talented business, sporting, performing, creative and caring people in our community who thrive in our beautiful place.
On the other hand, there's a dark undercurrent that can't be ignored. Some people face daily struggles with mental health, drug and alcohol abuse, violent crime and domestic abuse. We have what's been described as a "silent pandemic of depression"; not just in our district, but New Zealand-wide. We also see the negative influence gangs are having on our young people.
Key findings from the June 2021 New Zealand Crime and Victims Survey show no significant increase in household offences in Northland over the past three years, however public perception is that crime in our district is worsening, and we can't ignore the real poverty that many are experiencing.
Social media follows the same rule as most other media channels: anything that is unusual, dramatic or awful is more newsworthy and attracts the most comment. That can create the feeling there is more crime. The upside of social media is that word can also spread quickly when a crime occurs, and we have had several examples where people have been reunited with stolen goods using social media.
Social media is a double-edged sword, on one edge we have an increase in community awareness which can lead to a safer, more grassroots movement to crime reduction, on the other edge we have sharing and amplification of crimes. How we use social media, and what we take from it, is up to each of us.
When it comes to the safety of our district, everyone has a part to play - non-Government organisations, local councils, regional authorities, government departments, Police and monitoring authorities, community groups, and all of us as individuals. It's important we all know what our roles are, and what each of us can do to help keep our communities safe.
AdvertisementAdvertise with NZME.
Whangarei District Council plays a part in contributing to the safety of our district. Our focus is on physical aspects such as providing safe, well-lit environments for people to enjoy, using Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) to ensure new projects are designed with safety in mind, and employing the visible and amazing City Safe central city security patrol staff.
It's up to all of us to create a safe community – report crime, call out bad behaviour, set great examples to our children and help those in need. Safe communities begin at home.