19 Feb 2016

Community meeting in ex-gang stronghold

8:36 am on 19 February 2016

Residents in a former gang stronghold came together last night to discuss the ongoing safety and crime issues in the neighbourhood.

More than 100 people went to a meeting called by the council at Pomare Hall after recent publicity about problems in the community.

More than 100 people went to a meeting called by the council at Pomare Hall after recent publicity about problems in the community. Photo: RNZ / Kate Pereyra Garcia

Despite problems with graffiti, threatening behaviour, and vandalism, those living in the Hutt Valley area of Pomare and Riverside said it was a great community with a lot going for it.

It's a revamped community, created after state houses were pulled down to make way for a new subdivision.

And the Hutt City Council and police, have been criticised for not supporting the mixed development.

At Pomare Hall last night, more than 100 people crowded into a meeting called by the council after recent publicity about problems in the community.

One Waitara Street resident recalled answering a knock on her door only to have a teenager thrust his hands in her face and demand money.

"I love it up here, I was really disappointed."

She said she no longer felt safe to be out in her garden.

sign saying "We're taking action to make our whanau stronger."

Photo: RNZ / Kate Pereyra Garcia

Many of the problems involved young people, but a resident of 40 years said it was outsiders causing the trouble.

"Our kids in Pomare are getting blamed for a lot of things. There's outsiders coming in, and there are people who used to live in this area, who know this area quite well, who've come back in."

Others described seeing young people cutting across the train tracks behind the area and using Pomare and Riverside Gardens as a shortcut.

Hutt City Deputy Mayor David Bassett told residents last night that he was there to listen to their concerns.

He said it was important that everyone felt safe.

"I'm not just talking about in your homes but when you walk around the streets, when you go off to work, when you go down to the shops."

But those at the meeting were keen to point out the good things that were happening there and the strong community spirit.

The local school principal talked about the great children who went there and the community activities being hosted.

A local pastor told the group about the boys' group he was running.

Police said there had only been 14 callouts since December.

And the council's city safety manager Jimmy Ballantyne said the council was working to improve the education and leisure activities in the area.

"Study after study shows when those things increase in an area it becomes far more resilient to crime."

The developers will be leaving the area shortly with just a couple of houses left to sell or build.

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