A spate of recent vandalism targeting community reserves and established gardens has local residents and Council staff shaking their heads.
A social media post showing Mataatua Reserve’s turf left in ruins after vandals purposefully gouged skids through the grass has received widespread attention. However, Manager Open Spaces Operations Ian Molony, says the incident isn’t a one-off with the wilful damage being seen across the rohe.
“To put it bluntly, we’re gutted,” says Ian.
“Council staff put so much care into the development, maintenance and flourishment of our open spaces; they’re what help beautify our District and set us apart, we’re really proud of the work we do. However, this thoughtless behaviour has a huge impact on our residents, visitors and certainly the morale of our very hardworking and dedicated staff.”
Ian adds, “The repercussions on our community, for what is a quick thrill, are huge.”
“Reinstating our gardens and reserves back to their former glory is expensive, and this cost falls back on the ratepayer, through no fault of their own.”
Council believes public support is needed to protect our community-owned assets as is the need to work alongside community leaders, Te Runanga o Ngāti Awa and Whakatāne Police on a community approach to a community issue.
“The main concern for us is safety and as Mana Whenua this behaviour doesn’t align with our cultural values as kaitiaki so obviously we would like to find a positive solution to the issue,” says Reuben Araroa CE Te Rūnanga o Ngāti Awa. Reuben continues, “While it’s unfortunate to hear this is occurring across the rohe, to see it take place within one of the most iconic cultural landscapes that represents Ngāti Awa and our history is disappointing. It shows the need for further education about sites of cultural significance for Māori which we consider taonga for all to enjoy.”
Sergeant Chris Howard of Whakatāne Police says as in most cases, the perpetrators are a minority. “Vandalism should not be a form of entertainment; it’s a serious offence that has wide-reaching consequences for our communities.”
Sergeant Howard says local patrols are keeping a close eye on the situation day and night, with some of the culprits having already been caught.
“We urge locals to keep a look out for vehicles acting suspiciously and report them, their registration numbers and a photo if possible, to Police, preferably before any incident arises.”
Those caught may have their vehicle impounded and a fine issued, while in some cases court action will also occur.
In recent weeks damage has been recorded at (but not limited to):
- Richardson Street roundabout
- Boon Street roundabout
- Mataatua Reserve
- The Heads carpark
- Eve Rimmer Park at Cutler Crescent
- Awatapu Lagoon
- Ōhope Boatramp Reserve
- Strand/Commerce Street roundabout
- Thornton Reserve