New night safety scheme protects young women in Whangarei

Friday, 11 April 2008
/ Alcohol-related harm

A community safety scheme for young Whangarei women could be a model for other cities around New Zealand, a Nelson conference heard today.

The conference, with the theme Local Government – Planning for Alcohol in the Community, is being run by the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) and includes speakers from government departments, health agencies, universities and local government.

Whangarei District Council Alcohol Accord Coordinator Linda Nash told the gathering her safety scheme implemented over the summer was aimed mostly at vulnerable women who needed to get home after visiting hotels and clubs in the city.

The weekend Nite Flite project involved ’safety wardens’ in the heart of town who sold Nite Flite van vouchers costing just $5. The wardens encouraged men and women exiting clubs and pubs to travel in groups in the vans. Passengers were dropped off at their home gates.

“This project started in November and was to end in February, but there has been great public demand for it to continue, Mrs Nash said. “We had 20 use it the first weekend and that number steadily grew to over 230 on one weekend in December. That’s huge for Whangarei.”

With an estimated 800 people going in and out of nightclubs and hotels in the central city on an average weekend night, it meant a significant percentage were getting home with the service, she said.

“It’s not just for convenience – the police, district council and many other agencies were really worried about the chronic shortage of taxis in the early hours of Saturday and Sunday. Single women were having to walk through the CBD to a taxi rank where they often had a two-hour wait.”

Nite Flite is now mostly self-funding, she said. Initially funding was sought for advertising and promotional material as well as for radio communication between the Nite Flite warden and drivers. This funding was provided by Northland District Health Board, Roadsafe Northland, and Whangarei District Council. One of the city’s major nightclubs, Danger! Danger, contributed $2400 to cover increased lighting, warden wages and advertising during the project period.

Community money – about $4500 – went initially into advertising, posters, vouchers, billboards and van signage, and now funds were needed mostly just to pay the Nite Flite warden, Mrs Nash said.
The Nite Flite vans carried about five or six people each run with a maximum waiting time of 30 minutes. Because Nite Flite was so popular, two taxi companies were finding it commercially viable.

“It took a long time to get the taxi companies on board. It wasn’t until we started proposing our own leased van that they decided to provide vans and drivers of their own.

“That was the biggest difficulty, but I’m sure other cities could do the same. Considering the safety risks, there really wasn’t much funding involved. This is an affordable and accessible service whereby patrons get home quickly and safely.”

Further information:

Liz Price 0276 957 744, 04 527 3290.