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International Safe Communities Conference

Tuesday, 21 October 2008, 10:00 am

Speech: New Zealand Government

Hon Maryan Street
Minister of Housing
Minister for ACC
20 October 2008 Speech

Speech to 17th International Safe Communities Conference “Working together to make a difference”

Speech delivered on behalf of ACC and Housing Minister Maryan Street to the Christchurch conference by Labour MP Tim Barnett

Ladies and gentlemen it’s my pleasure to be here with you today at the International Safe Communities Conference, and to be amongst an international audience dedicated to keeping our local and international communities safe.

Firstly I’d like to acknowledge some distinguished guests here today – Mayor Bob Parker, thank you for hosting us in your city, and thank you Dr Coggan for making this event happen this week. Welcome also to Professor Leif Svanström, Head of the World Health Organisation Collaborating Centre on Community Safety Promotion, ACC Chief Executive Dr Jan White, who will address you all shortly.

Also, a very warm welcome to Dr Alex Butchard, Coordinator of the Department of Violence and Injury Prevention at the World Health Organisation, and the mayors, dignitaries and delegates who have travelled from around the world to be here this week.

As the Minister for ACC, I’m passionate about preventing injuries in all areas of society and I know you too are dedicated and committed to this cause by your being here today. Here in New Zealand ACC supports the Safe Communities Foundation of New Zealand, to prioritise injury prevention and community development, and we’re honoured to be involved with the World Health Organisation, and to be here today.

Too often, the many different safety initiatives that happen in our communities, both locally and internationally, aren’t publicly recognised, so it’s truly wonderful to have such a large group of people from all over the world here for these few days both to share these initiatives, and to inspire each other as we come up with new ways to keep our communities safe.

My colleague Hon Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Local Government, sends her apologies for not being able to be here. The theme of working together to make a difference is extremely meaningful in her portfolio. Central and local government’s ever increasing dialogue is vital in the quest to make a difference in our communities.

An example of central and local government working together is the central/local government working group on safer communities and social wellbeing issues. This group was established last year after seven social areas of concern were identified by local government through the Metro Mayors’ and Chief Executive Forum. The issues were:

  • policing and justice;
  • management of alcohol and its misuse;
  • graffiti;
  • street racing;
  • youth gangs;
  • family violence; and
  • housing.

The Forum agreed a central and local government working group was needed to identify and support existing and potential responses to the safer communities issues. That group has already made progress and both local and central government have agreed to key action points and have taken joint responsibility for achieving these.

The reform of the Local Government Act (LGA) in 2002 led to an increased role for local councils in the wellbeing of their communities. The LGA recognises that decisions affecting local communities are best made locally. It is only when local councils work with, and in response to, their local communities’ aspirations that communities can achieve their full potential.

There are many examples of local government taking the lead to address community safety and wellbeing.

  • The North Shore City Council’s ‘Make it Safe this Summer’ campaign, which promotes general safety on the region’s coastlines.
  • Napier City Council’s Safety in Napier programme. Over the past five years the council has developed a series of initiatives including improved street lighting, surveillance cameras, Neighbourhood Support funding and community patrols.
  • The Whangarei District Council’s Nite Flite project, which encourages people leaving pubs and clubs at night to travel in groups in special vans which drop passengers off at their homes for $5.
  • Christchurch City Council’s ‘Safer Christchurch Strategy’ which has led to next month’s designation of Christchurch as an International Safe Community based on World Health Organisation criteria.

These are but just a few examples of councils that have listened to the needs of their communities, and taken action to create a safe environment for all.

As the Minister for ACC, I would like to give you all an overview of how accident compensation works here in New Zealand, and how the Accident Compensation Corporation in particular operates.

The Accident Compensation Corporation is a crown entity, set up by the New Zealand Government to provide comprehensive, 24-hour, no-fault personal injury cover for all New Zealand residents and visitors to New Zealand.

Our vision is to provide freedom from injury and its consequences, for everyone in New Zealand. ACC’s role is to prevent injury wherever possible, treat injury when it occurs, and rehabilitate people back to their everyday lives as quickly as possible.

All earners, employers, self-employed people and motor vehicle owners contribute to the Scheme through various levies, plus the government funds a portion of the Scheme for non-earners like children and the elderly.

Throughout their lifetimes many people receive assistance from ACC. In the 2006-2007 year, ACC staff at 48 locations looked after 1.8 million claims from injured people in New Zealand. ACC also paid for more than 3.1 million visits to physiotherapists, 2.5 million visits to GPs and other treatment providers, 200,000 sessions of vocational rehabilitation, and social rehabilitation support 1.7 million times. Excellent rehabilitation rates were recorded, with 65 percent of injured people returning to productive life within three months, 83 percent within six months, and 92 percent within a year.

The Accident Compensation Corporation plays a key role in the New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy, released by Hon Ruth Dyson five years ago. The Strategy demonstrates the government’s commitment to working with communities and non-government organisations and individuals both to improve injury prevention and to reduce the impact of injury on New Zealanders.

It is a cross-government strategy, encouraging organisations to share knowledge and resources in order to achieve a reduction in injuries throughout New Zealand.

In September, I released the third NZIPS Implementation Plan, which outlines New Zealand’s key injury prevention activities for 2008-2011. The Plan has three main outcomes – addressing serious injury; quickly turning emerging evidence into action; and achieving cultural change by building and sustaining a culture of safety in both workplace and non-workplace settings.

The latest plan includes a particular focus on steps to strengthen activity around the impact that alcohol has on injury, and the continual increase in accidents occurring at home, which Dr White will discuss shortly.

One of the major projects outlined in the plan is the completion of a second survey of New Zealand’s safety culture, which we hope will reveal an increased awareness of the risk of injury in the home and how these can be avoided. The most recent findings showed that while 55 per cent of New Zealanders knew there was a risk of injury in the home, only 15 per cent actually thought they were at risk. Our recent and hugely successful Safety New Zealand Week campaign focused on injuries in the home, and we’re hopeful the success of this campaign will have resulted in increased awareness of the risk of household injury.

A further goal outlined in the latest plan is to achieve the accreditation of 18 New Zealand cities as World Health Organisation Safe Communities by 2011. Porirua City achieved this status in August, and there are now eight WHO safe Communities nationwide – Waimakiriri, Waitakere, New Plymouth, Whangarei District, Wellington City, North Shore City, Tauranga and now, Porirua – with Christchurch soon to become our ninth!

We’re very proud to have such a large number of WHO Safe Communities here in New Zealand, and we hope this number will continue to rise. We’re pleased to report that a large number of other communities have expressed interest in making an application.

As well as a number of other initiatives, the NZIPS Implementation Plan also includes the continued expansion of the New Zealand Injury Prevention Database, which enables everyone to share their injury prevention work with others around the country.

This database now provides information and contact details for over 500 injury prevention programmes. It is also a great mechanism for community groups to showcase their programmes.

As well as being a convenient way of gathering and disseminating injury prevention information far and wide, the database allows additional networking in the field.

These activities are just a small part of our commitment, and the commitment of local governments, government agencies and community groups to The New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy - its vision and its goals. A determination to a safe injury free New Zealand; creating a culture of safety; and then turning that culture into actually creating safe environments.

Community safety is of course a very important part of the work the other agency I am the Minister of – Housing New Zealand - does as well.

Housing New Zealand works closely with agencies, local councils, NGOs and community groups and was, for example, involved in Porirua’s recent accreditation as a World Health Organisation International Safe Community.

The premise underlying the WHO Safe Communities is the concept that safety is everyone’s concern and everyone’s responsibility. No one person or one organisation is responsible for ensuring safety: not the police, not the local council.

A similar concept applies to Housing New Zealand’s Community Renewal Programme which takes a holistic approach to housing - involving key agencies, community organisations and tenants in the process of rejuvenating some of the country’s most needy suburbs.

Porirua was again recently in the spotlight when the Community Renewal team based in the eastern part of the city was nominated as a finalist in the Community Safety and Injury Prevention Awards for their street makeovers, an annual event which encourages neighbours, community groups and agencies to work together to transform their street and connect as a community.

I recently had the pleasure of attending a street makeover in Eastern Porirua with my colleague MP Winnie Laban.

Although the weather wasn’t the best, there were many willing hands on deck prepared to brave the wintry conditions in order to spruce up the neighbourhood and help tenants and residents with gardening, growing vegetables, planning trees, recycling, rubbish collection, painting and a host of other activities.

Housing New Zealand also applies Crime Prevention through Environmental Design principles to reduce crime when building new homes to ensure that right from the start people have a safer community to live in.

For instance, the multi-award winning Talbot Park redevelopment in Auckland applied these principles by ensuring fence lines were low, trees were well-placed, homes face out on to green spaces and improved lighting and street design put an end to secluded walkways and cul-de-sacs which had previously provided a home for bad behaviour and criminal opportunities.

Another programme worthy of mention is Housing New Zealand’s Healthy Housing programme which also takes a holistic approach towards health and housing. The programme has recently begun in the Hutt Valley where families are enjoying better access to health and social services, increased awareness of healthy living as well as benefiting from homes which are less crowded, warmer and drier.

Last, but not least, while ACC and Housing New Zealand already have a close relationship though a number of safety initiatives such as installing stair guards and slip trips and falls prevention, the two organisations are also about to embark on a safety in the home campaign specifically aimed at state housing tenants which we hope will help to make state homes safer places to live.

I’m sure you all have your own examples of programmes and campaigns like these that have been implemented in your home countries and I hope you take this opportunity to share these with your fellow delegates and take home some fresh ideas for initiatives that you could adapt to meet the needs of your various communities.

I’m sure you will also learn a great deal from the fascinating line-up of speakers and presenters that you will hear from in the coming days. Welcome to New Zealand and I hope you all enjoy your time here.

ENDS

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