Rising anger at vandalism in city

'I think that the community is decidedly angry'

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013
Shaun Cunneen
SAM SCANNELL/Fairfax NZ

GRAVE CONCERN: New Plymouth District Council employee Shaun Cunneen was disgusted to discover vandals had recently toppled four headstones at Te Henui Cemetery.

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Vandalism is costing New Plymouth ratepayers $500,000 a year and the cost is rising as the destruction spreads.

The city's Pukekura Park has been targeted by idiots but other district sites have also been hit in our summer spate of vandalism, says New Plymouth District parks manager Mark Bruhn.

Boyracers ripped up grassed areas at Merrilands' Audrey Gale Reserve during the weekend, bolts were removed from barriers at East End Reserve, headstones were toppled at Te Henui Cemetery and there was further damage at Pukekura Park overnight on Monday.

Mr Bruhn said repairs could cost ratepayers more than $500,000.

"We seem to be having an outbreak everywhere at the moment, it's certainly the silly season," he told the Taranaki Daily News yesterday.

"Half a million dollars is probably right on the money, what we are spending on anti-social behaviour."

Mr Bruhn said the council had spent a further $5000 on security cameras and officers were spending a lot of time investigating further security options.

Community groups say they too have had enough and are taking a stand, offering their time and financial support to help catch the vandals and stop the destruction.

Friends of Pukekura Park vice-president Karl Rossiter said former president David Medway, who died in October, would have been devastated by the vandalism.

"You can imagine that he would have turned in his grave at the wanton destruction of the things that we treasure in Taranaki," Mr Rossiter said.

"I think that the community is decidedly angry. It's a sad reflection on a very small part of our society."

He was delighted security patrols had been extended and more cameras had been installed in the park, and believed the council should take all appropriate measures.

"The more we can do for security the better," Mr Rossiter.

Members of the organisation would be helping out with security during the Festival of Lights.

Robyn Harvey, president of the New Plymouth Egmont Lions Club, said members were appalled by the vandalism. "I don't know how you fix it but they need to be stopped," Mrs Harvey said.

At a meeting last week the club's board had approved offering a $1000 reward for information that led to a conviction of the offenders.

Mrs Harvey said she believed the club would also be prepared for the money to be used to help fund extra security cameras and encouraged other comm- unity organisations to do the same.

"I would be thrilled if they do because we all need to band together."

One of the club's members had also volunteered to build a set of stocks so the culprits could be put on display outside of the courthouse.

Mr Bruhn said any donations from community organisations towards additional security would be gratefully received but he wished they were not required.

He urged anyone with information about who was responsible for the damage to report it to police.

"So we can put a stop to it. The most important thing to me is this stops and we catch these toe-rags and they have the full force of our justice system imposed."

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Mr Bruhn said he stood by his comments in Monday's Daily News that he would like to see the offenders put in stocks at Puke Ariki Landing, but he did not want to incite unlawful behaviour as retaliation.

"There is obviously a huge amount of disgust at the behaviour of these people, there is a lot of anger about this."

- © Fairfax NZ News

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