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Skatepark violence a ‘social issue’

A series of violent incidents at Masterton skatepark has sparked online outrage, but the two former kaitiaki [guardians] say a boycott is not what the skatepark needs.

On Saturday, a boy was taken to hospital after a group of teenagers beat him up at the skatepark, kicking him and stomping on his head.

Two teens were referred to youth services as a result.

On Sunday, police were alerted to an altercation between a group of youths near the skatepark, which led to a later assault away from the skatepark where a teenager was punched.

All people involved in that incident have been identified and are being dealt with by police youth services.

Skater Jayten Le Roux left the park minutes before Saturday’s assault but said those allegedly involved have been regular troublemakers.

“The cops always come after s*** happens, but it would be good if one or two cops came patrolling normally,” he said.

Just weeks ago, the funding ran out for the two skatepark kaitiaki – Sam Hall and Piki Avery – whose role was to supervise the park, in addition to teaching kids how to skate.

Masterton District Council [MDC] funded their positions over the summer, and Te Hapori Skatepark group – formed last year by concerned parents – picked up the funding in March.

The funds were exhausted in mid-May but, as of today, Avery was back at the park on a voluntary basis.

“What happened on Saturday was disgusting, but most of the time, the park is awesome; the skate crews and the scooter crews are good kids,” Avery said.

“We just want it to be a positive place.”

Hall said the skatepark needs supervision.

“There needs to be someone down there keeping that relationship with the kids and maintaining that expectation of a certain level of behaviour and showing them that there are people there to watch out for this kind of crap.

“The kids that use the park have an expectation for their peers to meet a level of behaviour,” Hall said.

“You’ve got this handful of the same people who go about Masterton causing problems, but it isn’t a skatepark problem; it’s a social issue.”

Hall said that the people behind Saturday’s assault never caused any issues while he and Avery were in the kaitiaki role.

“People are talking online about the skatepark being dangerous or having a bad reputation,” he said.

“It’s just ridiculous. That’s just letting a small group of children win.”

Masterton District Council [MDC] community facilities manager Corin Haines said yesterday that the council is exploring options to fund the kaitiaki role until external funding is found.

Haines and the police said anyone who sees violence at the park should report it to the police.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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