Symbols can be powerful things. Nothing can ever fully repair the damage wrought in the brutal rape attack in Victory Community Gardens on New Year's Day. The victim and her family and closest friends will always carry the burden of what happened during a vicious, sustained act of violence.
However, Thursday's blessing and reclaiming of the garden area was a necessary and important step towards a healing of sorts for the close-knit Victory community. Those who attended were sending the strongest of messages - first, of empathy and aroha for the courageous 62-year-old who was so horribly violated; second, of abhorrence for any such crime of violence; third, that the community has the strength and resilience to unite, recover, and grow in strength, however tested.
So often the official response and attention following any criminal act is focused largely on the perpetrator, leaving those who have so unfairly suffered at their hands to find their own way back. However, as the woman at the centre of this outrage has given much to the gardens and community she loved, so too will the community give what it can back to her as she negotiates the ordeal of the court process likely to come and attempts a return to a semblance of normal life.
Victory received its national community of the year award in 2010 not just because of the strength, passion and vision of its leaders but also for the way so many "ordinary" individuals seized on a common purpose. In doing so their suburb turned itself around from what had been developing going into the dawn of the new millennium.
The award was as widely acclaimed as it was deserved. Activities centred on the school and community centre were seen as being at the cutting edge of social development practice.
That's not to say the area does not continue to have problems, and it remains a lower socio-economic part of the region. However, the stronger and more positive tone in the area is noticeable and marked.
No token ceremony and fine words can undo what happened on the first day of 2013. But there is strength and power in unity. The more who carry a torch - or white ribbon - for community and individual pride, love and non-violence, the stronger and safer the whole community will be. All a bit ‘stink' Fair enough for the city council to swiftly move to impose a swimming ban at Tahunanui Beach following a sewage spill. However, clearly it could have done better in advising the public about the potential health risk.
Several people went swimming on Wednesday oblivious to the possibility of floating into or stepping on something gross. Some didn't see the signs council staff erected sporadically around some parts of the beach. Others saw them but didn't realise the popular tourist beach itself was involved. There are two sorts of clarity issues highlighted. Such signs need to be prevalent, bold and unambiguous enough to get their message across at a glance.
Worse is that such spills can occur at all - especially at the height of the tourist season. Tahunanui Beach is promoted as safe and family-friendly, and is a huge visitor attraction. Heavy summer rain is not unusual. The city's pumping stations should be capable of handling far greater volumes than what fell on Tuesday.
- © Fairfax NZ News