In the 1960s and 70s Murupara was a vibrant town with a thriving forestry industry. The shopping centre was bustling, people had money to spend, the bush was plentiful with game and life was good. Then along came forestry privatisation and things changed dramatically.
Many families left the town, and with their departure the community started to disintegrate and the gang culture crept in. The unemployed were courted by gangs, with the Wairap Mob and later the Tribesmen establishing themselves in the town.
In 2009, two young people - Jordon Herewini and Kaine Lewis - died senselessly in gang-related violence. The community was outraged, scared and angry and there was talk of vigilante groups being set up to patrol the town and protect its children.
The Murupara Community Board took a leadership role at this time, in partnership with New Zealand Police. Together they called for calm and organised a community forum.
More than 200 people turned up to that meeting - most wanting an end to the violence and to reclaim their town from the gangs. The outpouring of emotion was important - it brought locals together and started a healing process.
After hearing their concerns, the Board decided to seek funding so a proposal to install CCTV cameras in the town's civic square could be fast-tracked. Their installation deterred people from hanging around and causing issues, while also offering security to business owners.
The next key initiative was to establish a "March for Life." Between 400 and 500 people turned up to march against the gangs and their violence. It was a peaceful revolt that sent a clear message to the gangs that their culture would no longer be tolerated. Attracting media coverage added to the sense of empowerment the community gained from this event.
Another key step in taking a stand against the violence was the formation of the Te Ha O Te Ora Trust to look at long-term policing strategies and other ways of making the community safer. Two community board representatives sat on the Trust that is still, today, working towards a safer community.
An enormous number of agencies and identities - from local MPs, to Child Youth and Family, Victim Support, Te Puni Kokiri, local radio Rangitahi ERFM and marae have since worked together on a range of initiatives to make Murupara safer. This has led to new levels of co-operation and collaboration that have had numerous benefits. Neighbourhood Support has been strengthened with new groups formed, a Night Owls patrol has been set up and the local Maori Wardens Group has been re-invigorated.
Most importantly, the community has united and become one. People are talking to one another again, taking a stand and actively ensuring the safety of their families and friends. Above all, it is clear that gang culture is no longer acceptable nor welcome in Murupara.
"This exemplifies a police and community partnership to address crime and reassurance issues that have troubled the Murupara community and recognises that any response to crime and safety issues involves a wide array of stakeholders and goes further than enforcement alone."
Judges of the 2011 Best Practice Awards