Min­is­ter’s de­sign for safe streets

The Dominion Post - - News - MICHELLE DUFF

Redesign­ing cities to pre­vent vi­o­lence against women and re­duce street harassment and as­sault will be a pri­or­ity for Women’s Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter.

Gen­ter, who is also as­so­ci­ate min­is­ter of health and trans­port, said women were be­ing let down by the de­sign of cities and streetscapes that put them at in­creased risk.

She will work with the New Zealand Trans­port Agency and lo­cal coun­cils to push for all en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign projects to in­cor­po­rate el­e­ments that will pre­vent harm to women.

In an in­ter­view with The Do­min­ion Post, the Green Party MP said it was a con­cern that only a third of peo­ple who cy­cled for trans­port were women – a fig­ure based on the Min­istry of Trans­port’s 2015 Cy­cling New Zealand Travel Sur­vey.

It was of­ten dif­fi­cult for women to walk or catch pub­lic trans­port, es­pe­cially with chil­dren. ‘‘Crime preven­tion through en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign is some­thing that needs to be taken into ac­count, and that par­tic­u­larly af­fects women.

‘‘I think New Zealand is a fairly safe coun­try but there’s a lot we can do with the built en­vi­ron­ment. En­sur­ing there aren’t en­trap­ment points for ex­am­ple, that you’ve got well-lit routes, that you’re not plan­ning off-street cy­cle­ways through parks that might be empty at certain times of the day, which would be more dan­ger­ous for women.’’

En­cour­ag­ing more peo­ple to walk or cy­cle also created a safer en­vi­ron­ment, Gen­ter said, due to more ‘‘pas­sive sur­veil­lance’’ – the per­ceiv ed no­tion of be­ing caught when a po­ten­tial of­fender thought they were be­ing watched.

In Oc­to­ber, a Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity study showed that women around the world walked sig­nif­i­cantly fewer steps than men.

How­ever, in bike-friendly Euro­pean coun­tries, half of cy­clists were women, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers.

‘‘So there’s a real op­por­tu­nity in New Zealand to make cities more friendly for women and make it eas­ier for them to be ac­tive, make it eas­ier for their kids to walk or cy­cle to school,’’ she said.

‘‘I will en­sure that we’re iden­ti­fy­ing the op­por­tu­ni­ties to im­prove de­sign for all peo­ple, be­cause when you make your towns and cities friend­lier for women and chil­dren it ben­e­fits ev­ery­one.’’

Auck­land Coun­cil de­sign of­fice gen­eral man­ager Ludo Camp­bell Reid said there was a missed op­por­tu­nity for New Zealand to de­sign crime out of its towns and cities.

‘‘One of the best lit­mus test for a safe pub­lic space is if a woman is happy to walk down it at any time of the day. You don’t judge it by if a mid­dle-aged man feels com­fort­able walk­ing through the space; it’s if a lone woman can walk through and feel safe,’’ Camp­bell Reid said.

‘‘It is not be­ing done con­sis­tently in New Zealand, we ab­so­lutely must do bet­ter.’’

This year, the coun­cil pro­duced a sec­tion of the Auck­land De­sign Man­ual – a guide for ar­chi­tects and prop­erty de­vel­op­ers – on how to de­sign for max­i­mum safety. ‘‘We be­lieve it’s so im­por­tant.’’

In­spec­tor Paula Holt, of the po­lice’s na­tional preven­tion cen­tre, said crime preven­tion through en­vi­ron­men­tal de­sign was very ef­fec­tive. ‘‘It can have a very, very sig­nif­i­cant im­pact. It’s amaz­ing what can be achieved or changed sim­ply by open­ing up a line of sight.’’

The en­vi­ron­ment was as­sessed by po­lice as part of the ‘‘crime tri­an­gle’’ of preven­tion: the vic­tim, of­fender, and the scene.

Other pri­or­i­ties for Gen­ter in­clude meet­ing with Health Min­istry of­fi­cials to dis­cuss cour­ses of ac­tion to im­prove en­dometrio­sis care, ma­ter­nity ser­vices and post­na­tal de­pres­sion.

‘‘I am hop­ing to iden­tify op­por­tu­ni­ties for health poli­cies which will take into ac­count the par­tic­u­lar needs of women and make sure they’re taken se­ri­ously.’’

Julie Anne Gen­ter

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