Fight over park safety heating up

Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross, far right, with resident Gordon Luke, second from right, and some of the Northpark locals who are fed up with unruly behaviour at Tarnica Park. Photo supplied

A group of determined east Auckland residents battling to improve safety at their neighbourhood park aren’t ready to give up the fight.

Locals who live near Tarnica Park in Northpark say they’re fed up with young people engaging in anti-social and dangerous behaviour at the public greenspace.

They say teenagers gather there as early as 5pm on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays and get into fights, vandalise the park’s playground equipment, and leave broken glass on the ground.

An incident earlier this year allegedly resulted in a young male being injured with a weapon.

One of the frustrated residents, Gordon Luke, was supported by Botany MP Jami-Lee Ross when he took his concerns to the Howick Local Board’s business meeting on July 15.

Mr Luke and several other locals previously presented a petition to the board in March that calls for lights and a security camera to be installed at the park.

He told the board he met an Auckland Council officer on May 6 and was told he would hear back from the officer within three weeks, but has heard nothing since.

“Not a single piece of information has come back from the board about what’s going on,” Mr Luke said.

“Nobody has been and knocked on the residents’ doors except for me and Jami-Lee Ross. He’s been around and talked to residents … we are not happy because nothing has happened.”

Board chairman David Collings said he understood a council officer was working with Mr Luke and would get back to him with a report.

He asked Mr Luke what happened when he contacted the council officer to ask what was happening.

Mr Luke said he had not done that.

“You didn’t think of chasing her up?” Mr Collings asked.

“Did you communicate with anyone on the board that that was the case?

“She hasn’t come back to you and you didn’t think to call any of the [board] members to raise it with them?”

Mr Luke said it isn’t his job to do that.

“It is your responsibility to come back to us and tell us,” he said.

Mr Ross then joined the verbal exchange. He said there’s about 1000 people living in the streets off Tarnica Road and he’s knocked on the doors of about 80 per cent of them.

“There’s a lot of frustration there around the park,” he said.

“Mr Luke is coming here because he feels there hasn’t been enough communication from the council and … this is an avenue to speak directly to the people who represent him with regard to local governance.

“So, respectfully, the aggressive approach to Mr Luke I don’t think is helping the situation.”

Mr Collings said he wasn’t being aggressive.

“I’m just trying to get to the bottom of the situation.”

Collings later told the Times Mr Luke had been encouraged to come to a “Talk To The Board” meeting instead which is more informal and board members could have engaged in a conversation about the matter.

“I’m sure I speak on behalf of all board members when I say we are also disappointed at the timeframe some of these things take to get addressed. However in fairness to council officers, it is important that before we make any decision to spend ratepayer funds or where decisions may have consequential outcomes that we have all the information. The officer working on this is our Strategic Broker and I understand she has been working with Police, Parks, Community Safety and Auckland Transport to try and find a solution,” Collings said.

“The reason for my questions below was due to my surprise that Mr Luke had chosen to come to the public meeting, where we have limited speaking ability, rather than just contacting myself or a board member directly.”

The council officer and Mr Luke have organised a meeting next month for the residents with Mr Ross, local board members, and local police to discuss the problems at the park.