Cook Is war­dens make a dif­fer­ence

South Waikato News - - FRONT PAGE - By PET­RICE TARRANT

As they slip on their vests and set out to work, it is not money on the minds of South Waikato’s Cook Is­land war­dens, it’s com­mu­nity.

Two dol­lars an hour is hardly an in­cen­tive to be a guardian of the town­ship, yet that is ex­actly what they pocket each night they carry out their pa­trols.

Chair­woman Se­lena John re­mem­bers the most tragic case her war­dens were in­volved in.

Two years ago six Cook Is­land war­dens about to sign off from duty af­ter pa­trolling the Christ­mas Pa­rade were on their way back to the po­lice sta­tion when, out of nowhere, gun shots were fired.

Ms John said a bul­let al­most hit one of her war­dens.

The trau­matic shoot­ing unfolded be­fore them – many of whom were re­lated to the vic­tim.

Tired, emo­tion­ally ex­hausted and in shock, their four-hour pa­rade pa­trol turned into a 14-hour crime scene watch.

Ev­ery year since then Miss John said they cross their fin­gers as Christ­mas ap­proaches. ‘‘That kind of knocked them.’’ But there must be some­thing that keeps them com­ing back.

Miss John, who has led the crew for the past seven years, said know­ing they are mak­ing a dif­fer­ence is enough.

‘‘Busi­ness peo­ple tell us that when the war­dens are out it’s a de­ter­rent.’’

She said the war­dens, who range in age from 16 to 79, have a way with the trou­ble­mak­ers.

Even the hard­est crim­i­nals have re­spect for war­dens, she said.

And as the younger war­dens come through the older war­dens pass their skill­son.

‘‘The best part is see­ing a lot of young ones come in . . . It is great to see them hop­ing to do some­thing pos­i­tive.’’

Vol­un­teer­ing has pro­vided a path to em­ploy­ment for five young war­dens to date, Miss John said.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion that be­gan as a church group in the 80s now falls un­der the aus­pices of the South Waikato Safer Com­mu­ni­ties Coun­cil which Miss John said has helped hugely with fund­ing equip­ment and ap­parel.

‘‘For years they were go­ing into their own pock­ets.’’

In 2010 a part­ner­ship agree­ment be­tween the war­dens, Toko­roa po­lice and Safer Com­mu­ni­ties was signed.

Miss John said a huge thanks goes out to the South Waikato Liv­ing With­out Vi­o­lence group for all their sup­port too.

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Photo: PET­RICE TARRANT

Ded­i­cated work­ers: South Waikato Cook Is­land war­dens Kare­rua Punga, left, Kareva Isaraela, Kani Nu­manga, Kee­gan Bright and North­land Ju­nior Pepe get ready for a night pa­trol.

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