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Masterton mums’ community-driven skatepark plan seeks safety

Masterton mums Stella Lennox and Ces Newton. PHOTOS/JADE DAVIES

JADE DAVIES
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Members of the community were left worried after ongoing reports of abuse and antisocial behaviour at one of Masterton’s newest attractions – the skatepark.

Over the past few weeks, parents took to social media to express their concerns, and the authority to trespass people at the park was granted to police on 21 April.

But two local mums felt more could be done.

Stella Lennox and Ces Newton put their heads together to work out a way for the community to make the park “safe and fun for everyone”.

They reached out to community leaders, inviting them to a meeting at Lakeview School on Thursday morning.

“We were just two mums, who have kids that love the skatepark,” Newton said.

“And we are also two people who have grown up here and we want it to be a nice place for everybody. We could see people were trying to help, and we wanted a place to bring all of that together.”

Lennox and Newton discussed their idea with Bob Francis who helped to bring council members, local Iwi, principles and the police to develop a community-driven plan.

“We felt that the community needed to own the problem,” Newton said. “It needs to come from the park users in partnership with the police and council.”

“Together, we have a much better chance of making it a safe and fun environment,” Lennox said. “We really wanted the meeting to be positive.”

Lennox and Newton said many solutions were discussed to reach the common goal – making the park safe and fun.

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They said key ideas included having people engaged with kids and skating present at the park, such as the Onboard Skate group and Wairarapa Boxing Academy to set a good example and promote using the park appropriately.

Other ideas were monitoring the park with both paid and voluntary positions and putting up visually exciting and easy-to-understand signs showing children how to use the park.

They said all approaches aimed to make all users feel welcome and included, and that providing skateboards and bikes for all to use could help to engage children and prevent jealousy.

The group also discussed holding a monthly event at the park and educating children on skating.

Masterton District Council’s manager of community, facilities and activities Corin Haines said the meeting was “a very positive start to a community-led response”.

“Ideas around establishment of kaitiaki for the park will require more detailed discussion including how this is best-funded and supported, and the Council will continue to be part of the process to develop this and other measures,” Haines said.

“Decisions around Council funding would require a decision by the full Council.”

Lennox and Newtown said the meeting resulted in creating a “small ropu [group]” to turn the ideas into actions and act quickly.

“Any solutions we come up with need to be aimed at all of the users. We don’t want to see anyone having to be trespassed,” Newton said.

“We are not going to eliminate the issues overnight, but slowly together we can make it better.”

Haines said a youth hub, including two toilets, would be installed at the park around June and that the council would fund the signage after consulting with the skating community to determine the style and content.

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