Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams believes there is a silver lining to the cloud hanging over the Waikato seaside town of Kawhia.
"Sometimes communities have to find themselves in a dark place before there is enough incentive to overcome family connections and bias or comfort level to say 'my goodness we don't like this and we need to do more for our community to be in a better place'," he said.
Mr Williams comments follow a packed public meeting in the town on Tuesday night where community leaders, police and locals gathered to discuss an alleged assault on the town's sole police officer on Friday.
Issues raised at the meeting included employment opportunities for the town's youth, better support of police and issues around drug and alcohol abuse.
They are issues Mr Williams has dealt with before in Otorohanga where a youth programme was developed following the suicide of two youths in December 2004.
"That got the community together - they were completely traumatised and said ‘what's behind this?'."
"What we found was a lack of employment and general frustration."
But Mr Williams said the difference with the Kawhia incident was that no lives had been lost.
"It was a terrible thing to happen, but it's given us all a wake-up call that there are issues that we can't ignore," he said.
Community leaders plan to meet with Mr Williams to compare notes from Tuesday's meeting and to draw up a list of options for the Kawhia community.
"We then need to talk potential partners including the Government which has a role to play around employment and training programmes, the police have a role and so does the community as stakeholders - we need to find out how everyone can realistically contribute to this strategy."
Mr Williams is hoping to report back to the community within "weeks or a few short months" to look at options available.
"Unless the community takes ownership of whatever solutions are put forward then it won't work. We need to take things slowly enough so people can absorb the outcome of what the solutions might be."
- Waikato Times
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