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Thursday 09 October 2008


"We're making K' Road safer"

Posted in: Community
By Matt Akersten - 11th April 2008

barbara_holloway.jpg
Barbara Holloway loves the diversity of K' Road
"I was actually up at 5am this morning thinking of all the reasons why the gay community is so important to us," Barbara Holloway tells me as we sit sipping coffee in nearby Beresford Square. "I have a whole list!"

According to Holloway, who's been working with the K' Road Business Association to make the area a better place for over three years, gay crowds regularly filling the street's variety of gay businesses bring with them a variety of benefits. There tends to be more people coming to K' Road just to have a good time, less violence, less drug use, less problems involving the police, more moneyed people bringing their dollars, a greater connection to creative industries - creating a cycle of creativity leading to K' Road's many art gallery spaces - and even a shown increase in tourism - especially American visitors ("my largest numbers of K' Road brochures are taken from Centurian sauna," she reveals).

So she was shocked to hear of the attack on Family bar's drag host Miss Ribena two weeks ago. Outside on K' Road, the diva confronted a group of young men who had punched a Family patron, and was herself punched in the face, leading to a rush to hospital and a big black eye. "I would pray that it was just a random incident," Holloway responds when the incident is mentioned. "In my experience, we have a lovely marriage of different people here, and no problem with violence against gay people."

Joining the K' Road team from similar work in Auckland's Onehunga area a few years ago, Holloway knew her immediate task would be to clean up the famous - and at times notorious - street: "When I arrived, I was appalled at a lot of different things. Blood on the footpaths. An assault on a schoolgirl. Then a serious assault one night. This was all in my first couple of months."

The road was filthy, with graffiti and disrepair, and she knew the authorities were thinking 'it's K' Road, who cares?'

Overseas crime prevention strategies gave her a starting point for solutions. Holloway began putting into place OK K' Road and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design programmes which still run today. "Our strategies involved a collaboration between residents, bouncers, council staff and business owners - all keeping each other in the loop.

"We set up lines of communication by phone and RT. Now everything's being reported. Residents are caring about the things they're seeing in their neighbourhood, and, for example, are calling up authorities with car rego numbers."

With an increase in reporting incidents comes an increase in funds for police resources to deal with the crimes, explains Holloway. "And we began looking at every bit of the environment which might be conductive to crime. Like areas with poor lighting, old-style toilets, or razor-wire fences which gave the impression a place was dangerous."

Funding was found for security guard patrol of K' Road on Friday and Saturday nights in early 2006. The six-month trial proved so popular with business owners that they themselves paid for the patrols, which continue to this day.

In general, Holloway is sure that K 'Road crime has decreased markedly in the last few years, and has statistics from the police to back up her assertion. "In general, crime both during the day and at night has decreased - and I think people take more pride in the area now.

"There are still assaults being reported, but mostly it is between groups of young men partying at night. It happens everywhere, and I always encourage people to go right through the legal process to get the culprits dealt with."

The assault on Ribena is the first homophobic act of violence that has been reported to Holloway's office, and it's a case she finds particularly worrying. "It was a group of people against one person… and such a random attack… it makes me very concerned. I know that they arrested two people on the night it happened, and they would have been charged."

In the days after the incident, Ribena spoke out about what she'd been through, calling for a major Stop Homophobia campaign, like the successful march along Sydney's Oxford Street recently, after their spate of anti-gay attacks.

Having read about the crackdown on homophobic violence in Sydney, Holloway is open to Ribena's idea. "We'd be keen to work with the owners of gay bars to design a specific programme dealing with any issue," she assures.

"We enjoy the diverse range of people we have on this street, and we're keen for that to grow."

Further information about Karangahape Road is available on new website kroad.com, linked below.


Matt Akersten - 11th April 2008