stories

Local events stir up action

Working together

2002. Pictured above: The Hutt River. Hutt City Council and local churches (In New Zealand) are making moves to work at creating a safe city, particularly since two unsettling incidents occurred on April 13 this year.

Lower Hutt reeled after the kidnapping of baby Kahuurautete from St Albans Grove and the murder of 36-year-old Kate Alkema while she was out on her regular walk down the Hutt Riverbank, all happening on the same day.

Vicar of St James Anglican Church, Rev Frank Nelson, says the incidents have been a wakeup call for “all of us. We tend to drift around in our own little worlds”, Mr Nelson says.

“Now people are more aware of each other. There is possibly both a suspicion and an awareness that I might need to look out for my neighbor.” When news broke that baby Kahu was found Mr Nelson rang the church bells, which have traditionally been used, among other things, to proclaim good news. He says it captured the imagination of Lower Hutt residents in what had been a bad week.

St James Church was available to assist Donna Hall and husband Judge Eddie Durie, parents of baby Kahu, and their family and relatives, and hosted Kate Alkema’s funeral. The church continues to pray for the community in daily services, which are open to the public. Mayor John Terris is asking himself and the community questions about whether Lower Hutt is doing enough to combat violence. He is worried that the latest statistics on violent crime place the city unfavorably.

Before the events of April 13 there were in place programmes to keep the city safe. Among these were increased security in the CBD and a downtown police presence. A further $100,000 has been allocated in the Draft Annual Plan for the forthcoming fiscal year to deal with crime. The Council also collaborates with the Police, ACC, WINZ, CYPS and the District Health Board to strategize for a safe city.

Since April 13, Hutt City Council has been sharpening their focus.

One piece of correspondence that struck a chord with the mayor was from the leaders of the major churches in Lower Hutt who asked the Council to meet and discuss with them the ways in which the Council might help to re-establish a stronger appreciation of values.

Captain of Salvation Army Crossroads Church, John Wordsworth, says he was thinking of gathering influential local citizens together for some time, and the breaking news of baby Kahu and Kate Alkema motivated him to act.

On May 1 there was a public meeting at Crossroads where it was suggested that a brief statement of purpose be formulated that could be the framework for residents to act upon, individually and corporately. The mayor, the local Police chief, High School Principles and other interested parties attended, all concerned about Lower Hutt reaching its potential.

An initial presentation of a Community Charter has been made to the Council and a submission has been forwarded requesting the Council to adopt and resource the completed statement. Mr Wordsworth says indications are that the charter will be warmly received and endorsed by Council. He says it is intended to get considerable community backing before it is promulgated.

Senior Minister of Knox Presbyterian Church, Rev Alastair Smales, says the Charter can only be adhered to voluntary. If implemented, various groups will use it whatever way is appropriate for them, Mr Smales says.

“It will be important for various groups such as the churches to model the values as a means of encouraging others to adopt it.”

Mr Wordsworth says the Charter has a “credal” look to it and emphasizes the potential of Lower Hutt and the difference residents can make together.

“Some of the values referred to are a sense of belonging, hope, responsibility and mutual respect,” he says.

The values will be Christian, Mr Smales explains, but at the same time universally accepted as positive and uplifting rather than negative “don’t do this or that”.

By Peter Veugelaers.

Published 2002, Challenge Weekly

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