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$60,000 blow for city crime busters

Greg Taipari, Rotorua Daily Post

14th July 2009

Neighbourhood Support in Rotorua is to have its funding slashed by $60,000 - a move that has upset residents.

Rotorua District Council has decided to cut funding over three years in favour of supporting other charity organisations and keeping rates affordable.

Neighbourhood Support says it now has to find the money from elsewhere or scale back services - including issuing pamphlets informing residents about crime and suspected criminals in their areas.

The council would be granting a total of $180,000 to Neighbourhood Support over the next three years. In the previous three years, the council funded a total of $240,000.

Former high-ranking Rotorua policeman Bruce Scott, who is the co-ordinator of a support group in Western Heights, told The Daily Post said he was disappointed.

"It's an important link between the main group and the people in the street."

Mr Scott was an assistant commissioner and regional commander for Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Gisborne from 1989-97.

Cutting funding would mean groups such as his would receive less information on what was happening in the communities, he said. "Communication is what it's all about. Making people aware of what is happening in the world of crime."

Council corporate planning and support manager Peter Christophers said the council received many requests for money from worthy organisations which also supported the community.

"While it would like to grant more money, it needs to keep rates affordable for residents."

He said the council was pleased to fund Neighbourhood Support as much as it did.

"The council supports and is appreciative of the valuable work undertaken by Neighbourhood Support, which is why it has continued to support them."

Neighbourhood Support is a national organisation that provides support for all city and rural support groups with an aim to make homes, streets, neighbourhoods and communities a safer place to live.

Its Rotorua branch is based at the Rotorua police station.

Neighbourhood Support co-ordinator Barrie Fenton said the funding cut would not have an immediate effect on the services the group provided. But he said current groups would notice the impact by the second year of funding.

If the group did not find replacement funding by next year, Neighbourhood Support would not be able to supply a lot of the information it normally provided to the groups in Rotorua, he said.

"We are disappointed with the news. We are already on a tight budget. It just means we will have to work harder to secure more funding for the group."

Mr Fenton said there were currently more than 500 support groups throughout Rotorua.

Council finance committee chairman Charles Sturt said the council had never intended to continue funding at current levels.

"We gave them the extra boost three years ago because at the time we felt there was a need. But it was never going to be a permanent thing. We support the valuable work they do. But we have other worthy causes that we have to consider as well."

Senior Sergeant Brent Crowe of the Rotorua police said Rotorua Neighbourhood Support was a role model for other support groups throughout New Zealand.

"They are a very good relationship builder and a conduit between the public and the police."

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