Porirua City has dashed public perceptions - achieving international recognition as a safe city.
It has just been designated a World Health Organisation (WHO) International Safe Community; putting it in the company of Calgary in Canada, Rotterdam in the Netherlands and Melbourne in Australia.
Mayor Jenny Brash says contrary to what some people think about Porirua it is a safe city and the WHO certification recognises this fact.
``Porirua is as safe as any other city in New Zealand, but what's also good about Porirua is that we have a community that works together.’’
``Creating a safe city involves more than looking at data and anecdotal evidence. We constantly work to understand causes and interrelationships rather than just responding to symptoms and this is making a difference,’’ says Mayor Brash.
Celebrations to mark Porirua's achievement begin on Monday morning (September 1) with the launch of ACC NZ Safety Week at Papakowhai School in the city.
It will be followed by an official ceremony at Pataka when the Safe City accreditation will be handed to Mayor Brash by Dr Carolyn Coggan, Director of Safe Communities Foundation of New Zealand, representing WHO.
The achievement is being celebrated by the community organisations that worked together to meet the Safe Communities Foundation's strict criteria.
They are Housing New Zealand Corporation, Kapiti-Mana Area Police, Regional Public Health, Accident Compensation Corporation, Porirua City Council, Porirua Healthy Safer City Trust and Porirua Community Guardians.
To achieve accreditation they had to demonstrate that Porirua City had:
• An infrastructure based on partnership and collaborations, governed by a cross-sectoral group that is responsible for safety promotion in the community
• Proven long-term sustainable programmes for injury and crime prevention;
• Projects targeting high-risk groups and environments;
• comprehensive and reliable data collection systems;
• Good monitoring and evaluation
• Participation in national and international Safe Communities' networks
Porirua City's application used a number of case studies to highlight successes, including the Porirua Community Guardians; a programme of local volunteers who work together to improve safety in Porirua and the Porirua College Drive Force Programme, which involves Year 13 pupils in safe driver training.
City safety projects have also included tackling graffiti vandalism, improving pedestrian lighting, promoting safe city design and street makeovers.
Dr Carolyn Coggan was one of 12 national and international experts and observers who visited Porirua City last month to assess what they called an "outstanding" application.
They were impressed by the commitment of the community organisations and agencies who worked together and their agreement to produce an Annual Action Plan. It was an excellent model for other communities to consider, she said in her report.
``It was very pleasing to see an extensive section on priority areas for 2008-2010, including the establishment of goals and timelines for achieving progress. The site visit team considered that this section demonstrated a real commitment by the Safer Porirua Strategic Group to a continuous improvement approach to community safety in Porirua City.’’
Porirua's Community Safety Project Manager and Porirua Community Guardians Coordinator Dallas Crampton says after three years of hard work the city is proud of the achievement.
``This has been a collaborative effort. It has given us a chance to not just tackle things on the surface but dig below at the underlying problems. Going for accreditation has helped us work as a strategic body.’’
``Achieving the WHO designation as a safe community affirms the great experiences I have working and living in this city. Porirua is an exceptional place to live and this milestone event confirms it is also a safe place.’’
WHO accreditation must be sought every three years, Mr Crampton says.
``Maintaining safe community status is about continuing to improve upon the areas where we do well and acknowledging safety issues in the community and how to keep working at addressing them to improve safety overall. This WHO accreditation is fantastic because it reflects that we're on the right track.’’