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Intimidation, violence, drug dealing, graffiti – how can Te Aro Park be fixed?

aro park

Wellington.Scoop
A Wellington City Council report released yesterday describes intimidation, violence and drug dealing in Te Aro Park, between Dixon Street and Willis Street, and says residents in the area are concerned as well as business owners and their employees.

The report says:

There is a consistent level of anti-social behaviour across each day of the week and hour of each day which is likely to have a significant impact on the safety and usability of the park for all users.

The community affected by anti-social behaviour associated with the use of Te Aro Park includes local business owners and their employees, residents and the general public. Harm experienced as a result of activity within this park includes financial and psychological harm as result of intimidation, violence, defecation in the area, graffiti, fear of harassment or physical harm, exposure to aggressive behaviour, loud music, drug dealing, sexual violence and other forms of anti-social and dangerous behaviour.

The location and layout of the park makes it easy for people to gather and socialise, however several factors contribute to anti-social behaviour when such congregation occurs. For example, the presence of toilets is a higher risk factor for vandalism and graffiti and proximity to licensed premises means that alcohol is easily available. Lighting in the park is ineffective and is worsened by the location of the large low hanging tree. The tree conceals both sightlines and camera lines and provides a sheltered location for those gathering for social purposes. This coupled with infrequent enforcement of the Alcohol Ban bylaw makes the park a highly attractive drinking location.

The concerns raised by stakeholders about anti-social behaviour in the park are reflected in data from numerous sources including the Council and partner agencies. This data shows a high concentration and increase of incidents associated with social harm in the Te Aro Park area and surrounding laneways … Council data shows a concentration of anti-social behaviour in the park, with breach of liquor ban being the highest reported incident … There is also a concentration of rough sleeping in the surrounding area. CCTV observed incidents show a concentration of breach of alcohol ban and anti-social behaviour incidents in the park. There is also a high level of graffiti.

A comparison of complaints to the Council relating to Te Aro, Glover and Waitangi Parks over the past five years indicates that Te Aro Park generated a high proportion of incidents associated with anti-social behaviour (33.4%) out of the three parks, despite being a relatively small area compared to Waitangi Park in particular. The number of complaints of anti-social behaviour generated by Te Aro Park is increasing, with 28% of the total complaints since 2013 generated from January – September 2019 . . . Te Aro and Waitangi Park also have a higher number of anti-social and bodily egestion complaints than Glover Park .

The report makes some cautious suggestions “to improve perceptions of and actual safety in the park.” It says potential actions fall into two broad categories:

● Physical changes that can be made to the park, including the toilet and buildings in the area.
● Addressing the social problems [that] contribute to the anti-social behaviour and cause the park to feel unsafe.

Actions taken as at January
● Tree trimmed to improve sightlines for CCTV
● Lighting levels increased
● New caretaker appointed
● Lighting assessment conducted
● Parks Sport and Recreation team looking into installing additional lighting
● Artists engaged on possible new mural upgrade to toilet building
● Businesses engaged with about their perceptions of safety in the park
● Police survey conducted with surrounding businesses
● Maintenance of the bike racks in the park
● Liquor ban signage has been installed.

Further options

● Redesign or remove the toilet. The toilet is used regularly by people in the park, passing through the area and those visiting the surrounding amenities. The toilet block is located on either side of the natural connection between Dixon and Manners St. Removing the toilet is not the first solution but in its current state, it is not fit for purpose. Due to the physical layout, sightlines into the toilet area are concealed. Changing the layout and creating a more open space would be more suitable for this location.
● The canopy connecting the two toilet blocks should be removed to improve sightlines for cameras and to create a more open space for pedestrians moving between Dixon and Manners.
● If the canopy between the two toilets is not removed, further lighting should be installed as per recommendations made in the lighting report.
● If the canopy is removed, it should be replaced with gentle directional lighting that encourages movement through the space rather than create the feeling of that section of the park being a destination.
● Remove Spark phone booth as it creates blind spots and concealments in front of the bicycle racks. Removing the phone booth would create less risk in this location.
● The park should be included in a regular cleaning plan to prevent the area feeling dirty and unwelcoming. Regular water blasting of hard surfaces within the park would be hugely beneficial.
● Recognise the cultural significance of the park with interpretive signage and transform the park into a destination.
● Supporting businesses to activate the park will encourage more legitimate uses of the space.
● Removing the parking from Dixon Street on the park side of the street will open the view to be seen from surrounding buildings.
● Installing pedestrian crossings into both Manners and Dixon street to improve safe access to the park

Lighting

● There are numerous lights that are not functional. Regular upkeep would ensure that dark corners are lit up and artwork is highlighted.
● Vertical lighting should be installed on the Opera House side to improve night time flow and a more defined route.
● Lighting should also be added to the murals on the toilet building to increase attention to the artwork.
● Lights should be added to the canopy of the Oaks building
● The area under the tree is poorly lit and is a dark zone within the park. Walking through the toilet walkway and arriving in the unexpected dark zone can be quite jolting and creates the impression of being unsafe. Lower lights should be added into this area to increase continuity of lighting. Canopy lighting should be added to the tree.

● The bus shelter on Manners Street creates an entrapment spot between it and the building. The glaring signage on the end of the bus stop adds to the feeling of insecurity felt when approaching this space. The sheltered bus stop is not necessary in this location as there is already a canopy on the building. The bus stop shelter should be removed.
● Increased maintenance of the park – repairs should be done in a timely way. For example, the glass panes of the canopy between the two toilet buildings slip out of their placement and repairs on these is not regular.

Behavioural Changes

● Improve guardianship of the park by involving businesses and other stakeholders in activity that occurs within the park, with central coordination from Council and intentional place-making.
● Where resources allow, increase patrols to the Te Aro park area during the hours of high activity and high social harm – this includes both Police as well as Local Hosts.
● Install Liquor ban signs within the Te Aro Park and surrounds liquor ban area.
● Encourage more stores to sign up for Eyes On.
● Activate the park by identifying meaningful activities and possible community development approaches that could be implemented to address some of the anti-social behaviour that exists within the park.
● Initiate community led neighbourhood activities such as a community garden or gathering space.
● Increase food carts or coffee carts to bring more pedestrians and legitimate users of the space into the park.

11 comments:

  1. Hori, 26. September 2020, 19:26

    Too many beggars. Remove the toilet block, put in more cameras. I work in the area & not a day goes by that some aggro isn’t bothering the passersby.

     
  2. Guy M, 27. September 2020, 8:09

    What an appalling report, and appalling conclusions:

    “Remove the telephone box” – listen, if an object the size of a telephone box intimidates you, you’d better try harder in life. Remove the telephone box because it is an outdated corporate technology that is now just a front for a free advertising billboard, but not because “it creates blind spots”. It’s only 3 feet wide! Grow up!

    “Remove the toilet block” – it’s a vitally useful addition to the city, as one of the very few above ground, level access, multiple user WC facilities, with a custodian room attached, and until recently it had a lovely mural, now inexplicably painted over with blue: a known gang colour. Why? Why paint over the mural, and why paint it blue? Who made that barmy decision?

    “Remove the canopy between the toilet blocks” – good grief! This is corporate speak for “we want you to be cold and wet and miserable every minute of your day”. Just keep the area clean! The canopy is part of a processional route through Eva/Dixon/Opera House Lane and it is good to have some shelter along the way. I use this route several times a week, with no issues.

    “Remove the bus stop shelter” – one of the best, most expansive bus stop shelters in Wellington – heavily used, and actually keeps the rain and wind out. Vitally useful. There are seats, wind shields, clear views, electronic signage, and books to read the front of. It’s a great bus stop. Don’t you dare remove it.

    “Remove the tree branches cos they are scary and dark” – trees are there for more than just you. They are a couple of lovely rich old pohutukawa with a large amount of bird life and insect life and sometimes even human life (children playing). I used to go and have my lunch under those trees every day when I worked down that end of town. We don’t need lights in the trees, we just need the trees to be allowed to be trees.

    “Clean the area more often” – well, duuh, yes! I still pass through this area several times a week, with no issues.

    There are undoubtedly many things that could be done to improve Te Aro Park, including improving its accessibility. As part of the LGWM works to Courtenay and Manners, this whole area is likely to have a major revamp, as bus-routes and car travel get changed. Blocking off Dixon St and removing car parks and pedestrianising the space will make the park much larger and more readily walkable / usable / enjoyable. The fountains and seating are great – flexible, amusing, acoustically enjoyable. There’s an obvious strong link between Te Aro Park and the Te Aro Pa that used to be here, from the original spiritual custodians of the land, and the users of the park have as much right – maybe more – than the scared boring bureaucrat that wrote this petty, pathetic report.

    The issue with the park is not the park – it is the seedy businesses that surround it. The aged strip clubs. The dodgy brothels. The smashed windows of the former hair-braiding place. The worst coffee in town. The row of $2 shops. Luke’s Lane.

    But then it’s also got the Dixon St Deli, the Eva cafe, the Mexican, Arty Bees Books, Avis/Budget, Hope Gibbons, the end of Egmont St and Eva St, the Opera House, and more. More intelligent use of the space is required, not dumb, petty moves.

     
  3. Someboooty, 27. September 2020, 9:52

    Easy fix better lighting and cameras. Always the same not all there hood rat kids and wannabe black power drinking, begging and fighting.

     
  4. Peter Kerr, 27. September 2020, 12:19

    Well said, Guy M. Reads like a case of Generalised Anxiety Disorder.

     
  5. Paul Bryant, 27. September 2020, 12:46

    So the big tree gets vandalised? Birds come here to roost. This is criminal.

     
  6. Paul Adams, 27. September 2020, 13:26

    The problems escalated in this park with the street people occupying the backpackers across the road! The trouble in the park lives across the road so what do you expect! You can’t get rid of the toilets as Courtenay Place at one end and the Railway station at the other end is too far between coffees.

     
  7. Simon, 27. September 2020, 14:39

    Yes well said Guy M, although I disagree with blocking off Dixon Street. Removal of the toilets is a particularly foolish idea given the lack of nearby alternative facilities.

    If the park is such a such a hot spot for crime and antisocial behaviour, why not just police the crap out of it until the message gets through?

     
  8. Felix Geiringer, 28. September 2020, 9:04

    Those toilets are needed. As a parent of young kids, we used them many times. No problem with safety. Massive problem if they were not there. [via twitter]

     
  9. Groggy, 28. September 2020, 11:46

    “This coupled with infrequent enforcement of the Alcohol Ban bylaw makes the park a highly attractive drinking location.” Gee I wonder what could be done to fix this? Oh wait the solution is right there. Just use the tools already available to stop the drinking. There are enough cops just 100m away in Courtenay Place so why don’t they enforce the existing bylaws?

     
  10. Mike Mellor, 28. September 2020, 12:35

    With you all the way, Guy M, Simon and Felix G. In particular, removing the toilets and the bus shelter without replacement would be dumb: there aren’t many public toilets in the CBD, and it doesn’t much imagination as to what would be happening if these ones weren’t there; and and of the most-used bus stops in the city needs somewhere sheltered to sit and wait (which can be for some time, particularly in the evenings).

    Perhaps people who use the park and its surrounds should be involved in working out how to improve things, as well as WCC and the police?

     
  11. Astrid Reed, 30. September 2020, 16:45

    The park itself is an eyesore. Slippery tiles, non-functional seats, what is its purpose? It’s the most hideous park I have ever seen. It’s a magnet for anti-social behaviour.
    Make the park functional, place food and coffee carts there, improve seating and make sure walking in the park is safe, not slippery. Why can’t we have a modern park for everyone to enjoy?