Key Points:

As part of a Government-initiated scheme being trialled in six centres, local Maori wardens have been retrained and equipped with radios to prevent trouble in the central city over the busy holiday period.

Twenty-three Rotorua wardens will be on the beat, working alongside police, working mainly with Maori.

Maori Warden executive council member Ruka Hughes said the scheme recognised that the best way to combat young Maori committing crime was to enlist the help of Maori.

"Our sole aim today is to help prevent our kids getting into mischief and to prevent them ending up in court."

The wardens were there to try and help in a non-confrontational way, he said. One of those who will be patrolling the central city is Clare Matthews who has been a Maori warden for more than 10 years.

The grandmother said it was about building relationships with youth."We hope they will find us approachable ... we are there for anyone in need."

Mrs Matthews said the wardens would be there to make people feel safe and to approach any youth "hanging around" in the area.

"The advantage is knowing the community. Being Maori wardens, generally we know the whanau and we can approach them and have a discussion with them. If there is the potential for it to erupt we will back off and let the police deal with it."

The wardens are already contracted to the Rotorua District Council to monitor compliance of sale of liquor laws in licensed premises and the central city liquor ban.

Police iwi liaison officer Senior Constable Willie Royal said the wardens had a good reputation and they would be a great resource for police at a time of year which was traditionally very busy.

The wardens had always worked in a way that was supportive and caring for the Maori people, he said. "The benefit of having them there is they have the ability to talk with people and make them feel safe."

Mr Royal said the wardens were there to help the police while still maintaining their own identity. If successful in the central city, the scheme might be extended to Rotorua suburbs, he said.

- NZH