Minister’s design for safe streets
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