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New initiatives and new hope - Pansy Wong

A new year with new initiatives and new hope

Gong Xi Fa Cai, Kung He Fat Choy
Wishing you a prosperous New Year

For our Chinese communities, the New Year celebrations are just beginning. The popular greeting above is the equivalent of Merry Christmas and can be heard during the Chinese New Year Festival and the Lunar Chinese New Year which falls this year on February 7.

Over the past five years, Chinese New Year celebrations have really taken off. This year the festivities in Auckland began on January 19 at the massive fair organised by the Auckland Chinese Community Centre, with thousands attending. This weekend, the Asian TV channel WTV is holding its celebrations at the Telstra Clear Centre in Manukau, with another celebration hosted by the United Chinese Association at the Aotea Centre in central Auckland. Then there are the celebrations in Northcote, Wellington, and Christchurch, and the ever-popular Lantern Festival hosted by the Asia:NZ Foundation in Auckland starting on February 22 and in Christchurch on March 1.. Who says Chinese don’t know how to party!

It’s unfortunate that, as we enjoy the festivities and the best summer we’ve had in years, 2008 has already brought untold misery to many Kiwi families. It seems that every day another murder is reported. That Counties-Manukau Detective Senior Sergeant Mark Gutry described the murder of young Krishna Naidu as ‘not unusual’ isn’t surprising – it’s a reflection of the ever-increasing violence facing law-abiding Kiwis.

While visiting Krishna’s parents, I was moved by their words of love for their son.

After their first daughter was born, Mrs Naidu prayed for five years for Krishna. Their family fled from Fiji six years ago, after the coup, seeking a safe life in New Zealand. At the time of the robbery, Krishna was not supposed to be in the dairy. His parents had asked him to help while they went to a funeral. The mother was inconsolable and said she had asked to take the place of her son.

Their close-knit family will suffer for a long time. Many of their extended family had flown in from Fiji and Australia to be together, and asked me why New Zealand had become such a dangerous place and why the law seemed to be on the side of the offenders.

National Party Leader John Key isn’t shrinking away from tackling this difficult situation, and is determined to address these serious issues and return safe communities back to New Zealand.Earlier this week, in his State of the Nation speech, he outlined National’s plan for youth and our hopes of a fresh start for New Zealand.

We are serious about tackling youth offending and propose to give the Youth Court a modern set of tools for getting teenagers out of the crime cycle. This includes giving the court the power to deal with 12- and 13-year-olds accused of a serious crime.

National also wants to give the court the power to issue a range of compulsory orders, including parenting orders, mentoring programmes, and drug and alcohol rehabilitation programmes. These orders will be backed up with the relevant services.

Another part of this plan is tougher sentences. National recognises that some young people have committed crimes so serious and so chilling that we must take drastic action. This includes longer residential sentences of up to six months in a Youth Justice facility; revolutionary Fresh Start Programmes which are year-long, intensive programmes designed to instil discipline and address underlying causes of offending, including up to three months of residential training at, for example, an army facility; and spotlight sentences where non-compliance with these court-ordered supervision contracts will result in electronic monitoring using an ankle bracelet.

In terms of education, National wants to see every person under the age of 18 in work, education, or training. This includes a universal education entitlement for all 16- and 17-year-olds that would allow access to, free of charge, a programme of educational study towards school-level qualifications. Those who don’t take up the offer will not be able to access a benefit.

National’s Youth Plan is about giving young New Zealanders the opportunity and responsibility to better themselves, no matter what their circumstances, abilities, or track record. National is ambitious for New Zealand and we want New Zealanders to be ambitious for themselves.

This week I met with Manukau Mayor Len Brown to discuss concerns about crime that were raised earlier this month at a meeting I convened between the Police and businesses in Torrens Rd, Botany. I am committed to working with the council, the Police and the community to address crime concerns at all levels.

Though this can’t bring back Krishna Naidu, hopefully we can all take something from his untimely death. People are sick of feeling unsafe in their homes, and it’s time to act. Our youth problems seem to be spiralling out of control but National is committed to clamping down on youth offenders.

The least we can do for the victims, and their families, of the recent crime wave is to refuse to accept violence as a part of our daily life.


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