Time to get tough

In Newsletter Editorial4 MinutesBy Gavin MyersMarch 3, 2023

I had a good giggle a couple of weeks ago when editing copy for the March issue of New Zealand Trucking. The story was a Just Trucking Around snippet, and in it, the driver, an Englishman, said that before he moved to New Zealand 15 years ago, a Kiwi friend of his told him, ‘It’s like the UK was 30 years ago.’

I laughed because, when we moved here three and a half years ago, we commented, ‘It’s like South Africa was 30 years ago’… (Without all the overt racial oppression, obviously.)

The villages and rural communities, the country roads, the open properties without fences and gates, kids out alone, friendly people looking out for each other, a tendency for most people to abide by the law with a sense of self-policing. For goodness’ sake, cop shops have business hours! Sounds like civilisation as it should be.

Except, it really isn’t. New Zealand has its problems like any other country. Its citizenry also has that undesirable underbelly of bottom-feeders who ascribe to none of the values that might define a good community culture.

That underbelly has become more prominent in the past few years with the uptick of ram raids, thefts, robberies, assaults, etc. And since Cyclone Gabrielle pummelled Hawke’s Bay last month, opportunistic crime in the region has been constantly in the headlines.

Dave McCoid wrote about it in his editorial last week, so I’m hesitant to repeat him, but I echo his sentiments, and more importantly, the topic shouldn’t be swept under the carpet.

A week ago, news reports brandished words like “hysteria” and “exaggerated”. Just this week, there have been reports of residents arming themselves and police setting up a 24/7 base in Bay View so “people can come talk to us about things they are seeing”. Something there doesn’t add up – but it also shouldn’t have to.

If I’m not mistaken, Hawke’s Bay remains in a state of emergency. By definition, that should mean police and military personnel on the ground, around the clock, everywhere. Whether there is or isn’t a wave of crime moving callously through a disaster area – and I’m inclined to stand with the residents on this one – it shouldn’t be up to the people who are struggling to recover as much of their lives as possible to defend themselves or “go talk” to the police. Authorities should be on the ground in numbers, taking control of the situation. The only reason opportunistic crime happens is that people know they can get away with it.

Which brings me neatly back round to my original point. The days of the 8-to-4, Monday-to-Friday police service with a couple of patrol cars to service a wide area have surely ended. A prime example is our office base of Thames; the town’s changed in the past few years, but not for the better. You could describe it as a lurking antisocial element. Unfortunately, those meant to enforce law and order are not changing too.

Sadly, like the UK and SA, New Zealand isn’t what it was 30 years ago. That’s no laughing matter. Bring on a renewed respect for the law.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers