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‘Violent attacks’ have left children scared to visit the park

JADE DAVIES
[email protected]

With more reports of violent behaviour and knife sightings emerging at Masterton’s park, the council has taken action and given police the authority to trespass individuals.

“Violent attacks” had left children scared to visit the park and parents concerned about their children.

A local parent said a group of girls swore at her teenage daughter and a friend before they pushed her to the ground and started “ripping out her hair”.

The parent called the police and said they showed up just minutes later.

The family spotted three girls running towards Lone Star and offered them a lift on their way home. They found out that the girls had also been threatened at the skate park.

“At first, I was upset, but I knew the police were on to it,” the parent said.

“But the sheer volume of people saying the same group had attacked their kids shocked me.”

“I’m seriously worried that a kid will end up getting stabbed,” the parent said.

Other parents said their children had been chased, hit by scooters and kicked.

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On Thursday, Masterton District Council [MDC] responded by giving the police authority to trespass individuals if they displayed antisocial behaviour.

“This is not a step we take lightly and comes after discussion with police,” Masterton District Council chief executive David Hopman said.

Masterton’s skate park.

“We were obviously highly concerned when we received reports of individuals and groups of young people behaving inappropriately at Queen Elizabeth Park and the new skatepark.”

Under the Trespass Act 1980, police would be able to move people on from the park immediately. They would also be able to ban children for up to two years.

Masterton Police senior sergeant Ian Osland said the police would take a “fair and considered approach” to using the trespass.

“We will be taking into account age, level of understanding, the seriousness of the offence and public interest,” Osland said.

He said antisocial behaviour was “behaviour that leaves anybody feeling uncomfortable, that impacts any other person’s ability to enjoy using the skatepark without fear of being challenged, threatened, abused, pushed over or intimidated”.

“We don’t want to set kids up to fail, but we need to hold them accountable,” he said.

“If anyone is behaving poorly, we need to hear about it, and we will do our best to respond. The area is under CCTV coverage, so we have the ability to analyse footage retrospectively.”

A Masterton Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesperson said the MDC spent nearly $700,000 of ratepayers’ money [and $1.3 million of taxpayers’ money], and they wanted it to be safe for everyone to use.

“This has got to stop now before someone is killed,” the spokesperson said.

The association said allowing the police to trespass offenders was “a great step forward” and that the community was “right behind the MDC on this issue”.

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