Newstalk ZB presenter Rachel Smalley has accused me of politicising a murder by raising some policy issues in the wake of the murder this week of Henderson dairy owner Arun Kumar.
I called for a stronger police presence with a community constable based in the Henderson town centre, more Council staffing so they can actually enforce the by-law on begging and anti-social behaviour, and a concerted effort by Council and others to turn around the economic decline of the town centre.
Hardly radical views. In fact the three things I called for are all supported by the chair of the Henderson-Massey Local Board, the head of the local retailers association, and the Waitakere Indian Association which takes a strong interest in the safety of local dairy owners. Coincidence? No. I talked the issues through with all of them, and talked with the shopkeepers in the vicinity of the Kumars’ dairy, before making my comments.
Mayor Len Brown and west Auckland based Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse have also been calling for more police presence in Henderson.
You see Rachel, my constituents don’t get to comment on Morning Report about what they think should be done after an event like this. But that is why they employ me. It’s my job to do that.
And I certainly won’t be silenced by knee-jerk responses like yours. I expect it from right wing hacks like Whale Oil and David Farrar. As partisans for the Government it is not in their interests to see Opposition MPs raising questions about matters of public concern, but I thought you were a credible journalist who would have seen the importance of that.
You write that a greater police presence would not have prevented Mr Kumar’s murder. Of course getting a community cop in Henderson won’t turn back the clock on the messed up parenting and social damage that saw a 12 and a 13 year old making trouble with a knife in a dairy at 7am on a school day, but to deny the relevance of police presence to these kinds of crimes is just shallow and uninformed.
If you had taken the time to find out a few facts you’d know that youth crime and anti-social behaviour have been a consistent problem in the Henderson Town Centre, including begging, intimidation and vandalism. Read the Western Leader, they’ll tell you. The two boys accused of the crime were well known to the Kumars and other shopkeepers, and part of a group that hangs out in the centre. The retailers have been asking for a greater police presence – specifically a community constable located in the town centre – specifically to deal with this issue.
The political Right loves to try and close down debate by drawing the cloak of sanctimony over any controversy. Three years after the Canterbury earthquakes Gerry Brownlee was accusing MPs who raised questions about the mismanagement of the rebuild of playing politics with a natural disaster. In the months that followed the Pike River disaster, journalists and politicians who raised questions about the culpability of the company were accused of politicising the 29 deaths. It was three years before the full extent of the company’s negligence was exposed to light.
It is never wrong for an elected official to raise issues of public concern.
So Rachel, how about you have me on your show on Monday morning and we can discuss this?