Opening of Papatuanuku Community Project

  • Tony Ryall


Mr Tui Adams, Father David Bennett, Superintendent Rickards, friends and supporters of the Papatuanuku Community Project, thank you so much for asking me to be here to celebrate today with you.

I know it doesn't seem like it sometimes, but crime is coming down in New Zealand.

In 5 to 10 years time I foresee a dramatic fall in crime.

That fall will be largely due to the work that dedicated people, like those here today, are doing to save a generation from a life of crime.

There's a story I would like to share with you.

The story is of a young man's downward spiral into a life of the most serious adult crime.

It is a story of foster homes, sexual abuse, social welfare care, gangs, and prison sentences.

For the young man involved it ended on July 3 of last year, when he was sentenced to preventive detention with a minimum non-parole period of 22 years.

But the story goes on for his victims.

It is the brutal and tragic story of Malcolm Rewa.

Predator. Convicted serial rapist.

I can't help wonder what a great deal of suffering and anguish could have been avoided if that young man could have been saved from a life of crime.

The Government has a four point plan to reduce crime in New Zealand:

1. Early Intervention
2. Crime Prevention
3. More Police
4. Tougher Sentences

Our best crime solution is early intervention.

Programmes just like the one we are launching here today.

Early intervention is best for those who need never grow up to be criminals.

And, it is best for those who need never become their victims.

Investing early in families under pressure is our most effective long-term tool for securing their future. It is also our best weapon against crime.

Many of the programmes the Government has put in place look nothing like crime prevention.

But, they are the things that Government can do to help the most.

The Family Start programme has brought together our health, education and social welfare services to help families under pressure get the support they need.

Our free doctors visits for under-6s is going to help identify and treat health problems that may prevent young New Zealanders from learning at school.

That's important because recent research shows that as many as 40 percent of prison inmates never learned to read.

That's one of the reasons we are so committed to re-focusing education on the basics of reading, writing and maths.

We aim to have every child proficient in reading, writing and mathematics by age nine.

Too many New Zealand children have been falling through the cracks and ending up looking back at society from behind bars.

Working together we will stop that.

Your "Breakfast club" project - to give a healthy breakfast to primary and intermediate age children who need it - will be a great help.

We know that kids can't learn if they are hungry at school or aren't well because of a poor diet.

The fifty or so children expected to attend the Breakfast club need not face that prospect.

While I fully support the Breakfast club initiative, I must emphasise that it is the responsibility of every parent to care for their children, and that includes giving them a proper breakfast.

The Breakfast club is based on a very successful project run in Gisborne.

Superintendent Rickards and Sergeant Eden were involved in setting up that club also.

I think the people of the Waikato are very fortunate to have people of the calibre of Clint Rickards and Tania Eden in their community.

Because at the end of the day the most effective programmes to turn communities around are those that come from communities themselves.

That's why I give all of you here today my total support for what you are doing.

That's also why I am very pleased Housing New Zealand has accepted the challenge presented by your community and got itself involved in your project.

I want HNZ to continue to support communities who are committed to improving their future.

It is important that HNZ develop its role as a responsible and active member of the communities in which it owns homes.

I am pleased to say that HNZ has been enthusiastic in doing this, and that Papatuanuku is not the only project that HNZ is supporting.

HNZ has provided a number of properties around the country for community projects such as this one.

HNZ is also involved in the successful Strengthening Families initiatives and in a new project in provincial New Zealand called Great Neighbourhoods.

Great Neighbourhoods is a commitment by Housing New Zealand to encourage and support communities in provincial towns who want to rejuvenate and revitalise their communities.

In May this year I was fortunate enough to visit a community rejuvenation project supported by HNZ in the Whangarei suburb of Otangarei.

I had heard a lot of very positive things about this project.

Otangarei is a community of about 500 homes, roughly half of which are owned by HNZ

This was a suburb with serious problems.

There were drag races in the streets, graffiti, property crime, drug crimes and all the sorts of things that get people worried.

Many residents were frustrated, angry and felt no-one cared about their situation.

This small community now stands as a leading example of how caring and committed people, working in their own communities, can make a huge difference to people's lives.

The project includes "broken windows" initiatives to remove rubbish, clean graffiti, beautify walls, improve homes, fence properties, install smoke alarms and renovate disused commercial property.

It also provides a safer physical environment for Otangarei children by altering roads to make streets safer.

This community has, in just 18 months, reduced shop-lifting by 50 percent, reduced burglary and vehicle crime significantly, and seen property values lift substantially.

The project is supported by the Government through the Safer Community Council initiative, through some modest direct funding, and by Housing New Zealand.

But, it is the dedicated people leading the project and Otangarei residents themselves that are its real stars and the key to its success.

You know, what strikes me most about this project is that I don't think there is a single thing going on in Otangarei that would have been thought of by someone in an office in Wellington.

And, I think the key to your success will ultimately be that you decide for yourselves what is best for your community.

I promise you that people from Wellington will support you - but they will not tell you what to do.

This Government does not believe that suits in Wellington, and especially in Parliament, have all the answers.

That is why we will continue to support community crime prevention initiatives.

We believe in local solutions to local issues.

I wish you all the very best with your project.

I know you have taken on huge challenges and commitments.

But, I know that, ultimately, solutions to the problems faced by your community must come from within your community.

Thank you all for accepting that challenge.