Editorial: Keeping students safe and happy

JONATHON HOWE
Last updated 12:00 22/02/2013

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OPINION: Palmerston North always transforms into a more vibrant, exciting place when students return to the city.

Thousands of eager young minds have begun flocking to Massey and UCOL for the start of the tertiary year, with many no doubt planning to enjoy Orientation Week events.

Eateries, bars and shops will benefit from the boost the student population provides to the economy, and it's always great to see new residents cast aside the negative Palmerston North connotations and make the most out of what the city has to offer.

But like any sub-group in the city, students can sometimes find themselves on the wrong side of the law, either as criminals or victims.

To remedy this, emergency services join forces each year to visit student areas, where they provide them with information about how to keep safe.

Obviously, this is done in an effort to deter drunken buffoonery, couch burning and rioting, but it's also about ensuring students don't become victims of criminals, or people who would seek to take advantage of them.

The often generous nature that comes with being young and idealistic has been the driving factor of the latest initiative by the Safety Advisory Board, which includes police and the city council.

The board launched a campaign last year to discourage people in the city centre from giving money to beggars on the basis that most of these individuals were in the care of the mental health and welfare system, and were not in dire need of the cash.

Having reviewed overseas studies that found the charitable nature of students made them susceptible to such advances, the board plans to deliver pamphlets advising them not to give money to beggars.

The anti-begging campaign has stressed that charities are far more deserving of this money.

Begging is not an illegal activity, but it would be a real shame for new students, especially those struggling financially, to be guilt-tripped or tricked into handing over their money.

Students often live, study and work here for three or more years before moving on to work throughout the country or abroad.

And even those who leave for good can become city ambassadors with the ability to encourage others to live and study here.

If we are to encourage people to stay in Palmerston North, we need to make it an attractive place for them to live.

The beggars aren't breaching any bylaws, but when their actions run the risk of affecting the city's livelihood and image, then any efforts by city authorities to quash such behaviour should be applauded.

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- Manawatu Standard

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