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Gang issue halts gathering

HAMISH M ACLEAN
Last updated 05:00 27/02/2013

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A planned meeting between gangs and community leaders at Moerewa is on hold after the arrest of several gangsters.

Both groups were to meet at a marae on February 20 to discuss plans for a safer and improved community but after the February 17 arrests it was cancelled.

Police remain tight-lipped over the arrests but community leader Peeni Henare is confident that the town's commitment to positive solutions is more important than policing the community.

And talks with the gangs will resume once the situation is sorted out.

"The gangs - all of them - have shown a willingness to meet, and really it's just about opening communication lines," Mr Henare says.

"We're not going to solve it all at one meeting but we're definitely going to get the conversation started."

Mr Henare is part of an organising committee that held a meeting on February 8 with concerned residents keen to make Moerewa a better place to live.

Gang violence - including a stabbing and gunshots fired near homes in town this summer - were among problems discussed.

He says the plan could take 10 to 20 years to achieve - but the mood is positive.

"The gang issue is what brought the community together," he says.

"The community has decided that we need to meet more regularly."

Mr Henare says options to promote town safety could include CCTV cameras on the main road.

Shop owners could also agree to not serve children after 9pm in a bid to discourage loitering.

A number of other alternatives also need to be discussed.

"Our street lighting in Moerewa hasn't been fixed in years - and street lighting makes a big difference.

"It's safety for our kids and families," Mr Henare says.

The current drive is not about policing the town, but connecting people to the support they need and encouraging a positive mentality.

"We're just trying to encourage our people to be more positive parents.

"There are programmes out there for young solo mums, or dads, or where de facto families can come together to learn how to be responsible," he says,

"That's what a lot of our young people are missing nowadays."

Mr Henare says some parents need support and guidance.

"There's an old saying: ‘It takes a village to raise a child' and we've got to get back into that mentality.

"When I was a kid if my aunties and uncles saw me up the road they booted my bum and sent me home," he says.

"But nowadays we only look after our own kids. We don't worry about the others."

He says people are still in the "honeymoon phase" of a renewed commitment to the community but there is a "unity" and "willingness" to affect change.

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Mr Henare says the community is starting to look at ways to access council and government services that may help.

- Northern News

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