Booze-violence initiative chopped – now funding is down to QLDC.
Combating alcohol-related violence in Queenstown is like “living on a knife edge”.
So says Merv Aoake, outgoing boss of the government-funded Curbing Alcohol-Related Violence initiative.
Aoake uses the analogy to explain how important it is to involve the whole community in dealing with the issue.
“If you allow the knife to tilt, you may suppress an area [of the community], you may stop families from coming here because they don’t feel safe.
“Conversely, it may stop another group from coming here – like young people – [by preventing them] from having a good time.
“Hopefully, CARV will make that knife wider.”
CARV – a two-year pilot scheme funded by the Ministry of Justice – winds up in Queenstown at the end of this month.
Queenstown was one of three areas in New Zealand offered the initiative.
Its intentions were to “develop local solutions to local issues” rather than following a prescribed format laid down by the ministry.
Local agencies and authorities including the police, Queenstown Lakes District Council, Otago and Southland District Health Boards, ACC, the Wakatipu Abuse Prevention Network plus an iwi representative worked together to come up with new schemes to reduce alcohol-related violence.
Many of the schemes are still in the “embryonic” stage – “what CARV has done has allowed some of that germination to start”, says Aoake.
This “multi-layered” approach might sound like a bureaucratic jungle but Aoake insists it’s not: “We break it down to the basics.”
Ideas that haven’t come to fruition yet are CCTV cameras and lighting up dark areas. “Community guides” – night-time CBD patrols – were trialled over winter and may continue if QLDC decides to fund them via rates.
While he’s disappointed CARV is finished, Aoake believes it’s now a “community-owned” project and should continue because “I don’t think the community will allow it to [cease]”.
While alcohol-related violence is an issue in Queenstown, he doesn’t believe the resort is a violent place.
“I feel it’s not. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be. Some people who go out there have the potential to be [violent]. So all we are trying to do is minimise the risk.”
He’s taking the Queenstown findings to Wellington at the end of the month to report on the success of CARV and will be telling ministers and bureaucrats that the initiative needs to continue “in some form or other”.