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Wellington gains international safety status

14 June 2006

Wellington gains international safety status

It’s official - Wellington is a safe city!

Wellington has been designated a World Health Organization (WHO) Safe Community - the only capital city of any country to currently be recognised in this way. The designation was bestowed on Wellington at a special ceremony at 1pm today.

Mayor Kerry Prendergast says she is absolutely delighted that the work of the Council and its partners -Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC), Capital & Coast District Health Board and the Police - has been recognised in this manner.

“It’s an outstanding achievement and one that we can all be very proud of. We already know that Wellingtonians perceive our city as a safe place to be both day and night, it’s fantastic to see that being acknowledged internationally,” she says.

“Safety is a top priority for Wellington City Council and we have applied a variety of approaches and spent a lot of time and effort working with these other agencies to ensure Wellington is a safe city. It has been a collaborative approach that has worked well and every agency involved in achieving this status shares in this accolade with us,” she says.

Wellington City had to meet six criteria, and satisfy the Safer Communities Foundation of New Zealand (WHO’s certifying agency in New Zealand) during a site visit, that it was worthy of being the 100th community in the world to become a WHO safe community.

“Of course this doesn’t mean that nothing bad ever happens here or that we can rest on our laurels. The safe community status is about acknowledging that we are aware of the safety issues in our community, that we have gone a long way towards addressing these issues, and that we will continue working with our partners to improve safety in our city.”

Mayor Prendergast says the city’s newly recognised safe community status is a far cry from 1998/99 when Wellington experienced a spate of high profile, violent incidents, including the on-street murder of 14-year-old Jeff Whittington and several serious sexual assaults in public places. The Council’s 1999 Residents’ Satisfaction Survey showed that only 30 percent of respondents felt safe in the city at night.

In 2000, Wellington City introduced the City Safety Package, with 31 specific initiatives, funding of $5 million, and a dynamic Safety Strategy. Responsive to current issues and emerging trends, the strategy aims to ensure people feel safe in Wellington at any time.

Key elements of the safety package include:

- 15 full-time equivalent City Safety (Walkwise) officers, operating 24/7 in the central city. Acting as ambassadors for the Council, they aim to prevent and deter crime and anti-social behaviour through their visibility.

- Partnerships with government, Police, health and community agencies, and the business sector, especially the hospitality and security industries.

- Increased events for youth, along with youth participation in the planning, participation and delivery of Council-led initiatives.

- The integration of safety initiatives into “business as usual”. Examples include urban design, lighting, and the development of partnerships.

- Injury prevention through projects such as the Council’s Liquor Licensing Policy and the inter-agency Liquor Liaison Group, the joint ACC and Walkwise initiative known as Shopsafe (aimed at reducing injuries amongst retail staff), and the Council’s SaferRoads project (aimed at reducing traffic accidents in the city by a third by 2010).

Since the introduction of this package, the Residents’ Satisfaction Survey now shows that over the past few years nearly 100 percent of respondents felt safe in the city during the day, and around 70 percent of people felt reasonably or very safe in the central city at night.

Mayor Prendergast says that a further $15 million will be spent over 10 years to support safety initiatives.

“Our safe community status will continue to be monitored in order for us to retain this accolade. Maintaining the safe community status is important to the Council because it’s part of what keeps us an internationally competitive city and helps us to retain and attract our highly-skilled, creative population. The challenge for us now is to move forward building on our success and putting more resources into making the suburbs and local neighbourhoods as safe as the city centre.”


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