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September 2010
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Alcohol project wins award

A project to reduce the impact of alcohol on Rodney youth won the award for most outstanding initiative at Blue Light’s annual awards ceremony at the Royal New Zealand Police College last month.

The Alcohol Harm Minimisation Project became possible after Rodney Area Commander, Inspector Janet Hope managed to secure one of five national grants from ACC of $25,000.

The grants were available to encourage locally based initiatives to prevent and reduce alcohol-related harm, community violence and disorder within communities.

Sergeant Dave Wright from the Rodney Community and Family Violence team worked as project manager, while Mark Veale, Hibiscus Coast Blue Light Events Coordinator, developed the programme. With the help of local police staff and public volunteers, Mark delivered it to the area’s teenagers.

“The project was run in five phases,” says Dave. “First, 30 key influential young people were identified, whether that was a positive or negative influence. The important thing was to target people with a big peer group, who could filter messages through to others.”

Prior to Christmas, typically a time of problem drinking, the team ran five evening classes focusing on the damage caused by alcohol.

“These sessions definitely made a big impact,” says Mark. “I drove some kids to the training who were planning to go on to a party and get drunk afterwards.

“After hearing drink-driving victim Tamati Paul speak, they seemed much more subdued and told me I’d ruined their buzz. They were too aware of the potential consequences to get excited about drinking.”

The third stage involved volunteers mentoring the young people, and keeping in regular contact with them through the Christmas period and on an ongoing basis.

A weekend camp in February this year helped develop team-building and leadership skills among the teenagers, enabling them to become positive role models among their peers. Senior Constables Bernie Watt and Dave Mitchell from Youth Education Service spoke to the group, along with avalanche survivor and motivational speaker William Pike.

Blue Light Coordinators Mark Veale and Shane Gould with a group

of Alcohol Harm Minimisation Project attendees.
Photo: Blue Light

Further monitoring is now taking place. Mentors are making sure the teenagers are still on track, as part of the ongoing evaluation of the success of the project.

“We have evaluated each phase and the results look very good,” says Mark. “The programme really broke down barriers, and the kids got to know their local cops on a one-to-one basis.

“One boy’s mother was a gang associate and his father a patched gang member. At an open air session around the campfire, he asked us if he could join the police if his parents were gang members. That’s a positive result,” says Mark.

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