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Neighbours invaluable in a disaster

Marlborough Express

6 April 2011

Marlborough Neighbourhood Support Group co-ordinator Robin Harris reckons people in the region can learn something from the deadly earthquake in Christchurch.

He wants people to get together in their neighbourhood.

"When the quake hit, people were wandering the streets helpless and didn't know who to look for in their street, but with neighbour support groups you will know the people around you," Mr Harris said.

There's been a lack of interest in the groups in Marlborough and Mr Harris wants to change that. "We need people to join up and become part of this important nationwide organisation.

"If a disaster hit Blenheim, I'd like to think we're prepared and we have that register of people through the neighbour support groups to help Civil Defence out."

The neighbour groups set up in Marlborough for some time had been successful, he said.

Senior Constable Russell Smith, of Blenheim, is right behind them.

"The benefits of neighbour support groups are phenomenal," Mr Smith said.

"Members of these groups have phoned us when they have seen suspicious activity in their patch, and more often than not we have caught the culprits in action."

Statistics showed support groups deterred criminal offending, he said.

"Where a neighbour support group is operating, potential offenders don't seem so keen to offend and in some cases the crime rates have dropped to zero," he said.

"Those that do try to commit an offence in or around the area are usually quickly caught, as a neighbour will immediately phone the police if they think something's suspicious."

Marlborough District Council emergency services manager Ross Hamilton also echoed their views.

"During an emergency it's another tool in the box to make the process run as smoothly as possible.

"Neighbour support groups will always be contacted in the event of an emergency, and in that respect we're very supportive of the organisation."

Blairich View support group co-ordinator Les Rogers has signed up all but one of the 38 people living in his area and believes the group gives them peace of mind and security.

"We're all looking out for each other and keeping an eye on the area.

"One lady opens her venetian blinds to say she's fine, and closes them before she goes to bed on a daily basis. She has previously had a bad fall and it's just a way we can make sure she's safe.

"I guess it's small things like that which can make the difference."

Anyone interested in joining a neighbourhood group or wanting to start one, contact either Senior Constable Russell Smith, at Blenheim police station, or Robin Harris, on 5796445.


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