James Ihaka at NZ Herald reported:
Five years on, the Herald revisits the street made famous by John Key and finds McGehan Close residents positive and proud. They’re free of the gangs that plagued them and happy to let their children play outside.
Five years after they were thrust unwillingly into the political spotlight, things have changed for the residents of McGehan Close – much of it for the better.
Gone are the wannabe gangsters who terrorised them, along with the broken glass, the graffiti on fences and homes and rubbish that littered a nearby stream.
Instead there are children playing outside, neighbours speaking with each other over their fences and people wasting little time reporting any suspected crime.
So how has this change happened?
It is a street where everyone knows everyone – and where people say they’re proud to come from.
Among them is Halahetoa Haukau, who was 12 when the media showed up in droves after the Prime Minister’s infamous 2007 speech at the Burnside Rugby Club, in Christchurch.
Now 17, the retail student said many of the street’s problems went away when local gang Dope Money Sex stopped using their local park as their watering hole.
“A lot of them are either in prison, shanked [stabbed] or have kids of their own and have grown up and moved on.
“It was pretty scary back then. No-one would come out of their homes because they were too afraid, you would never see any children at the park, ever.
“But they’ve gone … it’s probably because of that,” she said, pointing to a liquor ban sign above the park.
Gangs destroy a local community.
Ms Santos said the publicity had galvanised the street’s residents and while many of the people the Herald had spoken to in 2007 had now left, she said McGehan Close showed how a neighbourhood can take ownership of its problems.
“It’s a really good place and yeah, people are proud to live here. They used to be too scared, now they will call the police if they see anything going on.
“The people who live here have hopes and dreams too, they want better for their children.”
She conceded the Government had done some good with homes being recarpeted or fitted with new kitchens, bathrooms and curtains – part of a $125 million investment into state housing upgrades.
She said Housing New Zealand and the Auckland City Council were proactive in dealing with complaints, particularly with graffiti, which is cleaned up almost as soon as it appears.
Police also respond quickly to their calls while a footbridge built in the last couple of years runs over a nearby stream that is surprisingly free of any rubbish.
“But really with a lot of the changes I think it’s the community that has done most of this,” Ms Santos insists.
I agree. I think Government, both central and local, can help out – but it is the community itself that has the most power.
Every second Thursday Alpesh Macwan holds a barbecue at number 13 McGehan Close.
He regularly gets about 15 kids and a few parents showing up for a sausage or to play with his rabbits while a couple of local youth workers also pop by to lend support and listen to the children.
What a great idea. Little initiatives like that can make a difference.