Vandals target community

    Saul (9), and Sabin Sutherland (11) helped their grandfather Bob put out a tyre fire at Whalers Bay recently. Residents in the area have noticed an increase in vandalism and destructive behaviour. Photo: Supplied
    The Invercargill City Council has installed wooden bollards in some areas around Sandy Point to prevent vandalism, such
    as this near Links Rd. Photo: Ben Tomsett

    RESIDENTS of a micro-village near Otatara have experienced a notable increase in vandalism since an Invercargill City Council Parks and Recreation ranger vacated their
    on-sight position three years ago.

    While making a submission to the council objecting to the proposed rates increases for the site, Coopers Creek residents Kerry Hapuku and Robert McMurdo also noted a rise in torn-up grass, burnt-out cars, and graffiti since the departure of the ranger.

    Council Parks and Recreation manager Caroline Rain said the ranger’s role was to look after the environmental reserve, control pest plants, perform track maintenance, provide public education, if required, and remove litter.

    She said there had been a ranger living at Sandy Point, near Coopers Creek, until 2018, and when the position of ranger became vacant, Parks made the decision to move away from having a site-based ranger.

    ‘‘Staff safety is of primary importance at council. The ranger had been subject to out-of-hours disturbances and other situations which were best managed by trained police officers. The decision to move away from a site-based ranger was made on this basis.’’

    As it was no longer needed, the house vacated by the ranger was sold by council and subsequently moved off-site by the new owners.

    Ms Hapuku said the residents were not told why the house was removed, but noticed the council had put up wooden bollards to prevent driving on the grass in some of the surrounding areas.

    ‘‘There’s been a lot of four-wheel driving off the sides of the roads that’s been really bad; last winter there was a lot of it. And I’m not sure about burned-out cars, but personally we’ve rung the police three times about fires around at Whalers Bay and my partner has
    gone and put out two car fires.’’

    Waihopai Rowing Club had its facilities targeted several times in the past year, which club president Dianne Jenkins said she had not seen in her 10 years of involvement with the club.

    ‘‘Both Invercargill and Waihopai rowing clubs have also had their club trailers vandalised,’’ she said.

    ‘‘Somebody decided to take the tail lights off and all the wiring. And that’s never happened before either.’’

    Mrs Rain said the council worked with police around the destructive nature of some behaviour at Sandy Point, and police increased their presence there when available to do  so.

    ‘‘Rangers still look after Sandy Point, however they do not live on-site.’’

    Ms Hapuku said the residents were aware of the current rangers being sent out by the council, but communication was an issue.

    ‘‘They’ll drive out the roads and they’ll pick up rubbish, but they’re not contactable. [The previous ranger] made himself available.’’