Simplified Chinese

Town takes on louts

The Aucklander
9 Decemberr 2010

Bus drivers pulled out of East Tamaki after hoons attacked their vehicles. Now the buses are back. Rowena Orejana explains.

Jo Iosefo is getting sick and tired of walking up to East Tamaki Rd in the evenings to catch a bus. For two months, the Pearl Baker Drive resident's bus service has been diverted away from the area.

"People were always complaining to me about it," says Mr Iosefo, a member of the Neighbourhood Support group. "Some were saying the company had no right to stop the bus run."

From April to August, there had been eight incidents involving boys from the neighbourhood pelting buses with rocks.

NZ Bus general manager Darek Koper says the issue has become one of safety for passengers and drivers.

"The lady bus driver dreads making the turn to that street. She always instructs her passengers to duck," says Mr Koper.

Mr Iosefo says residents are incensed at being made to suffer for the boys' misbehaviour.

In September, NZ Bus asked Auckland Transport to allow it to divert its services from the area.

The following month NZ Bus rerouted its services after 6pm to avoid Johnstones Rd, Hills Rd, Pearl Baker Drive and Valder Ave.

This week, however, the company intends lifting the diversion after representatives of the community convinced the firm it is safe to return to the route again.

Otara Local Board member Poutua Papalii interceded on behalf of the community.

"The community rallied together and put in a process to have the service reinstated.

"This process included rounding up the offenders and making them see the consequences of their actions," he says.

The neighbourhood watch group identified those responsible for the mischief.

Girl Komene, who heads the watch, made the boys write letters of apology with a promise not to do it again.

She says a passenger was injured after the boys threw a rock.

"We've kept them from doing that [since]," she says.

"They said they were bored and looking for things to do, so we made sure they had something to occupy their time."

Mr Koper says he is happy with the intervention. "They have given us enough assurance to understand that the community has taken us seriously and will make it safer for our drivers," he says.

The company is not planning to lay charges against the boys.

"We don't support punishment or prosecution but we will work with the group to find ways to engage them positively." The company had reported the incidents to police but they had no luck in identifying the culprits.

Mr Koper says his company has hired former league star Tea Ropati to work with the community and the children (see panel).

"We are very pleased with the positive outcome," he says.

"We obviously want to provide a safe working environment for our drivers and we want the community's assurance that such incidents will not happen again."

Breaking the cycle

Idle minds are the devil's playground. In Otara, bored youths throw rocks at buses. In Papakura, they trash the walls with graffiti.

Former rugby league star Tea Ropati is working with community groups to provide opportunities for young people to become involved in positive activities.

The Break Away School Holiday Programme is part of the Government's campaign to help young people reach their full potential by furnishing them with structured, enjoyable activities during the holidays.

"It is aimed at young people who would not normally have the means or opportunity to access holiday programmes. With Youth Pride Break Away they can," says Mr Ropati.

The programme will bring some heavyweights in, among them boxers David Tua and Shane Cameron, plus another league international, Tawera Nikau, to inspire the participants.

"Young people can get new skills, new challenges, and [have] the chance to meet new people and to meet new role models," he says, pointing out that the programme sessions are free to young people and their families.

Mr Ropati says they are designed to meet the needs of the communities they operate in so a wide range of activities are offered - sports, hip-hop, kapa haka and arts and crafts.


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