Cook Is wardens make a difference
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.
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.