About two months ago our community started to become agitated as the release of one this country's worst ever sex offenders, Stewart Murray Wilson, came closer. The thoughts going through most peoples' minds were probably much the same; which community was Wilson going to be released into? One thing was for certain: no-one wanted him back in Blenheim.
On my Facebook page I had people asking for assurances that those who had been subjected to this man's criminal acts would not be confronted by him 18 years later. His victims had done all they could to be able to move on with their lives and one couldn't even come near to imagining the fear and sense of absolute helplessness those people have been going through.
Even the mayor has been lobbied to do all he could to ensure that Wilson did not return to Blenheim. He spoke out about the unfairness of having Wilson back in a town where people have had their lives irrevocably changed by his actions. Now we know Wilson will be sent to Whanganui.
The sense of relief Wilson's victims must be feeling now must be great - and if their's isn't, mine certainly is.
I can imagine the public uproar if the man dubbed the Beast of Blenheim was to return to town. My life would have become hell as I tried to deal with an outpouring of disgust, dismay and demands to have the decision overturned.
My heart goes out to my parliamentary colleague, Chester Borrows, who now has to deal with this in his electorate. Having to deal with this issue at various public meetings is a huge challenge. The fear, abuse and threats that come from some sectors isn't something I would wish upon anyone.
I hope the people of Whanganui get the assurances they're seeking so they can get on with their lives secure in the knowledge that although Wilson is in their area, he is not, and never will be, allowed to be a part of this community. Right now I think we all need to stop for a few seconds and take stock of what has happened - and be thankful that Whanganui's "problem" was Blenheim's solution.
In the long run, with all the restrictions and controls that will remain in place after Wilson's "release", people should be safe. Tariana Turia has already spoken out and said she will feel safe living in the same area.
Events like Wilson's release bring out an alarming level of natural and very human emotional response. I think it's important that people don't fall into the trap of becoming overwrought to the point where they threaten harm; this simply sinks otherwise good people to a level akin to that of the person they are threatening.
The powerful response to recent events led me to thinking; if the release conditions were done in secret the public would be none the wiser, but this isn't the type of society we want.
All of which brings me to another observation - many people get worked up if there's talk of a prison to be built near them, yet by and large the public demands stiffer prison sentences.
Sometimes the solution to society's problems has to be shared, and that means the answer will sometimes lie in our backyard.
- The Marlborough Express