Owners of two Whangarei childcare centres say they were not consulted about a facility housing convicted child sex offenders which has opened just a few hundred metres from both.
The Dent St facility, housing at least four men convicted of child sex offences, is within a few hundred metres of three childcare centres, a children's playground and a community hall used by various community and youth groups.
The facility is in a bungalow formerly used as a beauty salon and overlooks Laurie Hall Park, a popular thoroughfare for students from nearby schools, and a playground frequently used by young children. It was opened last December.
The Department of Corrections has contracted People At Risk Solutions (PARS) to manage the 12-week transitional supported accommodation service which helps offenders comply with their prison release conditions.
Corrections said police were informed last year and four early childhood centres were also visited. There were no residents in the house "if it was considered that their risk could not be safely managed and public safety upheld'', services operations director Lynette Cave said.
However, Alan and Jackie Lints, owners and directors of Educare in Norfolk St, said they had not been consulted about the facility and next week would be contacting Corrections, wanting answers.
They learned of the facility yesterday after inquiries by the Northern Advocate.
"Ideally we don't want it there but society requires it, but I think they should reconsider the current location," Mrs Lints said.
"Safety of our children is a paramount and we have procedures in place to ensure their safety."
Lin Smith, owner and head teacher of Smiths City Childcare Centre, was disappointed she had not been informed by Corrections that child sex offenders were at the property — 150m from her childcare centre in Hunt St.
"I have absolutely had no contact about this and they did not consult. It's disappointing to have this so close to so many childcare centres," Mrs Smith said after learning about the use of the property, which was formerly used as a beauty salon.
Mrs Smith said yesterday staff would be reminded of procedures already in place about keeping staff and children safe at the centre but extra attention would now be paid to any males who might be seen acting suspiciously outside the centre.
"We have policies in place to keep staff and children safe at all times. I am very confident I can contact police staff if I need to and they will be here in a heartbeat."
A community hall at 116 Bank St is used by a variety of groups including youth. However, a person managing the hall had not heard of the Dent St facility and declined to comment.
Operations Director Corrections Services Lynette Cave said the Dent St facility was not specific to child sex offenders, but was currently housing four men who had convictions for child sex offences.
"Some of the offenders in this accommodation also have links to the Whangarei area. Assisting them to reside in a community where they have existing connections with support people reduces their likelihood of re-offending," Ms Cave said.
Three of the offenders are on extended supervision orders, which requires them to comply with extensive conditions including GPS monitoring, curfews, and counselling as directed.
The fourth offender is subject to release conditions. Since moving in, one of the men had been charged with breaching conditions. There was a live-in manager to provide round-the-clock oversight and support.
She reiterated four childcare centres had been visited on October 4 last year and police had been informed.
"We discussed the processes in place for managing community-based offenders and working with government agencies like police to ensure public safety. Notifications to residents are carried out on a case by case basis," she said.
The Department of Corrections said no offender would be allowed at the Whangarei house if they were considered a risk.
"The safety of the community is Corrections' and our providers' primary priority. No offender would be permitted to reside at an address if it was considered that their risk could not be safely managed and public safety upheld,'' Ms Cave said.
"Community Corrections staff carry out an extensive and robust process to assess the suitability of every address proposed to accommodate a person with a conviction for child sex offending."
A range of factors were considered before the Dent St facility was opened, including the location of victims, proximity to places designed for children, physical factors of the property such as shared access, access to support services, including Community Corrections and police.
A property located within 500m of a school or place designed for children might be approved, dependent on all other factors being taken into consideration, Ms Cave said.
"Corrections has specific guidelines for housing child sex offenders, including consideration of proximity to schools, parks, and family homes where children are occupants."
Corrections deemed the Dent St property was in a largely commercial area on a main road and was close to support services.
"The chosen location supports the safe management of any risk associated with offenders residing there to reduce the likelihood of re-offending and keep the community safe."
Consideration was also given to the location of victims.
Police have regular contact with residents and staff, and meet monthly with providers and Corrections staff as part of the ongoing oversight of the service.
Corrections operate similar accommodation in Northland with PARS and another provider but would not say where those were.