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King: 25th anniversary AGM of NZ Bluelight

8 May, 2008
25th anniversary AGM of New Zealand Bluelight

I am really looking forward shortly to meeting my friends Bobby and Bryan again, but though they are an important reason for being here, they are not the most important, of course.

The 25th anniversary AGM of New Zealand Bluelight is a special occasion to celebrate, because as well as honouring the organisation and the people who guide it, we are celebrating the wonderful influence Bluelight has had on the lives of countless thousands of our young people over the past 25 years.

I want to acknowledge Police Commissioner Howard Broad and Principal Youth Court Judge Andrew Becroft, both of whom have already spoken to you today; District Court Judge Paul Geoghegan; Manukau Mayor Len Brown; Bluelight chair Senior Sergeant Lance Tebbutt; other members of the Bluelight executive; overseas visitors from Australia and Scotland; members of NZ Police, and all the other friends of this organisation. I am very pleased to be with you.

I also want to acknowledge another special person, your chief executive Rod Bell, whose two decades of passion for and commitment to the Bluelight movement sets him apart from everyone else at this meeting.

And finally I want to acknowledge someone who is special to me as Police Minister --- the O/C New Zealand Police Youth Services, Superintendent Bill Harrison.

When I became Police Minister in 2005, the first person wearing a uniform to appear in my office was Bill, who provided valuable advice to me during the transition period as I took over the portfolio from my colleague George Hawkins.

One of my first duties as Police Minister was to open the new Palmerston North Police Station. Bill accompanied me to Palmerston North and as we drove up we crossed that long bridge over the Manawatu River just south of Foxton.

Bill entertained the rest of us in the car with a story about how when he took his noisy children on holiday, he used to persuade them to play a game to see who could hold their breath from one end of the bridge to the other. I thought to myself that anyone who could have such a quietening effect on young people must have a vocation for working with the young, and that is why I was so delighted when he was appointed to his current role.

When my office was talking to Bill recently about what made Bluelight such an important area for the investment of police time and energy, he quoted from the American organisation Fight Crime --- Invest in Kids.

The essence of the quote was that “we will win the war against crime when we are prepared to invest in our most vulnerable children without waiting for them to become our most wanted criminals”.

The message is simple and compelling, and it relates as much to New Zealand as it does to the United States.

I understand Howard Broad talked to you earlier today about the Auckland Youth Support Network, a collaborative group across several agencies that came together in late 2005 to tackle the youth gang problem in Counties Manukau.

I understand there have been some excellent outcomes from the network’s action plan, and it is a living example of how positive investment in our young people can pay off.

The youth gang problem was the first so-called policing crisis I faced after I became Minister, and like many such crises, it wasn’t really a police crisis at all. It was actually a serious problem demanding the attention of a wide range of agencies and community organisations working together. It is that sort of collaborative response that makes it so much more likely that we can achieve what we all want to see --- “safer communities together”.

The aspect of that issue that really bothered me was that the behaviour of a minority of Counties Manukau young people was tainting the reputation and affecting the morale of the thousands of good young people who live in the district. No one should underestimate the problems Counties Manukau still faces, but I believe the community’s response to the issue should be an inspiration to other communities.

If you want to look for the dark side, you never have to go far ---- almost every day the headlines tell us of problems with young people and booze, with young people and drugs, with young people playing truant, with graffiti, with youth violence. You name it, and you will find a youth problem every day somewhere in New Zealand.

The problems are real, but I am sufficient of an optimist to believe that for all the bad or sad things that happen every day, they are far out numbered by all the good, ordinary everyday things that happen and that we still almost take for granted.

And Bluelight can take credit for some of those good things --- it is a positive influence that makes our society better and our communities safer.

Although Bluelight is a stand-alone and independent organisation, it fits comfortably alongside the Police Youth Education Service (YES) mission --- to promote individual safety with school students and school communities, achieving enhanced community safety by reducing the incidence and effects of offending and victimisation.

I believe that the more cooperation and sharing of ideas there can be between similarly-motivated organisations, the better it will be.

Certainly, I applaud the increasing emphasis within New Zealand Police on working with other organisations in the youth area, particularly on building a strong relationship with the Ministry of Education.

I also welcome the fact that there has been a greater emphasis on community policing and youth aid officers in the deployment of the 1000 extra sworn and 250 non-sworn police staff pledged under the Government’s confidence and supply agreement with New Zealand First. I believe it is important to continue reinforcing that emphasis.

As far as I am concerned, all such police are working on the frontline of New Zealand policing. You don’t have to be driving an Incident or I car to be on the frontline. Police need to be out there in all sorts of roles in their communities as a visible and proactive presence, and Youth Aid and community policing certainly fit that description.

As I said, I also particularly value the growing strength of relationships between police and the Ministry of Education. The relationship is a commonsense one, and there is much that local police and local schools can achieve by working with each other, and with other agencies and parents, in programmes that suit everyone’s purposes.

The police in schools initiatives in south Auckland are a good example; and so are initiatives like Rock-on, intensive truancy case management programmes in the Thames-Coromandel-Whangamata area.

Another very promising initiative that you will hear more about today is Warriors Against Bullying --- and I wish I could stay for that session as its features Dean Bell, one of New Zealand’s most admired rugby league players of all time, and a personal favourite of mine in the Kiwis jersey. I am sure he would love to be playing in the centenary test against Australia tomorrow night.

But to return specifically to Blue Light --- I am sure that one of the most important reasons for its success over so many years has been the willingness of a wide cross-section of police to contribute to Bluelight activities.

When you see detectives, road policing staff and team policing staff turning out to fishing competitions, for example, you know you are in the midst of something that is special indeed.

So congratulations to you all for 25 years of caring for the young people of New Zealand. I am proud to have been asked to join you at this landmark annual meeting, and I am sure you will gain much from sharing experiences with colleagues and overseas visitors.

The really important part of the afternoon --- the launch of the Bryan and Bobby television show --- is now set to take place, and having been interviewed by Bobby earlier this year, I feel as if I am part of the show, even if only as an extra. Thank you again very much for inviting me here today.


ENDS

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