GRACE HOETE chased down car thieves and got her car back. It got her thinking about how Ōtaki could collectively solve its crime problems. She organised a public meeting. In this article she shares her thoughts.
Beautiful Ōtaki is a town easy to love, a place you can call home. It has the warmest of people, sand, sea and warm summer waters with pipi and tuatua.
I didn’t grow up here, but Ōtaki runs through my DNA. Through our whakapapa my tupuna bones lie here in this idyllic beachside kāinga.
I returned to Ōtaki to bring my bestie home for her tangi at Raukawa Marae. I never left. I felt and remember the aroha of the Raukawa whānau and the warmth of Ōtaki and decided to stay on.
I’m a private person and was raised to treat people the way I would like to be treated, with respect for others and their property. Simple, so I thought.
But sometimes in life, something just pushes the buttons in you and you snap. I turned into a semi-crazed madwoman, car chaser, police caller, pissed-off woman, determined mother and nanny who was going to get her stolen car back one night.
I’m not a vigilante who wanted to string up the thieving, joyriding teenagers barely out of puberty. I just wanted our damned car back! You see, it was car number four stolen from our driveway/street and we had worked hard to own the few things we have.
After getting our car back my frustration and thoughts ran deep about Ōtaki and how out-the-gate the crime rate was going. My whānau immediately wanted to shift away. But stubborn as I am I thought, hell no! Ain’t no thieves going to drive me out of town. I love Ōtaki, we’ve got to do something!
I was listening to an elderly woman telling me how she loves living here, but then she frowned and said:
“Something’s changed. I don’t feel safe here any more. The mood has gotten dark. Living on my own can be frightening with all this crime around us. What’s wrong with our town? It feels like in the space of a couple years we have moved from being idyllic to unsafe.”
Do we blame the Covid pandemic and the pent-up frustration of lockdowns, the increased number of alcohol outlets, the return of “501” whānau from Australia, the increase in family violence, the escalating cost of living, out-of-towners coming in and causing trouble among our rangatahi?
Social media is abuzz daily with reports of car thefts, with photos of smashed, abandoned, or wrecked cars. Then ram-raids in Ōtaki, Waikanae and Paekākāriki, add some drive-by street muggings, prowlers, and assaults in broad daylight on young-uns outside the library. Police run through backyards and the armed offenders squad appears more frequently in Ōtaki.
But it’s not all bad. In September the NZ Herald reported: “Despite ram-raid rhetoric, youth crime is dropping year on year . . . The recent spotlight on ram raids and smash-and-grab robberies, the number of young people ending up in court is dropping. New statistics out today reveal just over 1300 young people aged 10 to 17 had charges finalised in court in the year to June 30, compared with 1500 in the previous year. The most common crimes were theft, assault, burglary and robbery and the vast majority were male.”
There are many unanswered questions, but stop the truck and back it up. We are Ōtaki – we know how to think outside of the box!
Let’s not blame, let’s do it differently. Let’s take a full U-turn and come at it from a different angle and work on the positives. We have a lot to offer but first we need to ask the questions.
How can we lift our youth, our people, our community?
We unite, we come together, we get creative, we get brain storming, we get talking and communicating with respect, across all generations, ages, ethnicities, cultures and diversities. We lift ourselves, we lift our community spirit and we fight for our town with positivity.
We work together to build the “Positivity of the People” and find ways together to lift our community, our determination and fighting spirit. Our strength is in our unity.
How do we do this?
Through the true practice of whānaungatanga – a sense of whānau connections and relationships through shared experiences and working together creating reciprocity.
Manaakitanga – we show respect and generosity and we care for others.
Plus we carry on practising “Aroha Atu Aroha mai Ōtaki – Give love Receive love Ōtaki”.
We learn to love ourselves as we love our people and our town, warts and all. We then put our brains and resources together and we get creating and developing.
At an open meeting on October 27, I learned that people in Ōtaki care. They love this beautiful Ōtaki, they care about their neighbours, they love living here, and they want to work together to create a better, safer environment for their whanau, for our elderly and for our young ones.
People came with a heavy heart but an open mind, with a focus on positive ways to look at what we can do. We discovered we can create our own possibilities with positivity. The potential for our rangatahi was at the forefront in the meeting.
Another meeting will be confirmed shortly, and we will advertise it 10 or more days in advance. At this meeting we would like to invite All rangatahi service providers, whānau community agencies, Ōtaki Community Board members, Kapiti Coast District councillors, community constables and anyone else who’s willing to help.
We want your resources, time, input and action, because Ōtaki and our future generations deserve it.
To see the list of ideas that emerged from the October community meeting, click here.