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Pearl Baker bights back!


An Otara street looked more like Pearl Harbour until fed-up residents took control of it. Joseph Barratt, of The Aucklander, reports.

Joe Iosefu loves his neighbourhood. As he stands in front of his home of 32 years, he is playfully mocked by passers by.

"It's up to us to look after the community," says Joes. Kids on their way home from school say "Hi" as they walk past his house on Pearl Baker Drive in Otara.

Parents and grandparents stop and give him a hard time for talking to a reporter: "Going to get your name in the paper are you?" they laugh.

But living here was no laughing matter until this community managed to turn itself around.

Traditionally, Pearl Baker Drive is among the more disadvantaged streets in Otara.

The Killer Beez used to "hang" on the street. Drugs were sold at the reserve in daylight, graffiti and boy racers completed the picture.

That was until Joe Iosefu and a few other residents got together and set up a neighbourhood support group.

"Pearl Baker is one of the hot spots in the area," he says. "People were concerned but didn't know what we could do. So we just started this group and it has been really effective."

As word got around and more people joined the neighbourhood group, members began working with Manukau City Council, the police, the school and 274.

"Council came to the party and supplied paint and we went out every morning and painted over the graffiti," says Mr Iosefu. "It would be there again by the next morning but we just kept doing it and eventually it stopped appearing.

"It has brought the whole community closer together. It lets the younger ones know that we care for the area. I take my hat off to the neighbourhood. Without the people here, this would not have been the success it has been."

Pearl Baker Drive has been a success story for neighbourhood support and Otara needs more like it. Otara Community Board member Mary Gush has been working to establish more through the area and says they are a great way to raise community awareness.

"There is no point just demanding more police," she says. "There are never going to be enough resources for all our needs.

"The onus is on the community and we all benefit from it. There are two groups working in hot spots in Otara and they have been working great. The local residents are taking ownership of the problem and are turning it around."

To set up neighbourhood support in your area, call Rosetta at Manukau City Council, 263 7100. What do you think of Pearl Baker Drive?


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