by ESME O’RAFFERTY

The community of St Mary’s Catholic School in Tauranga has united against a proposed Community Corrections service centre, saying that the increased traffic to the area would be a danger to pupils.

The proposed site, which would be built on nearby Burrows Street, would combine the three current facilities from the wider Tauranga area into one
probation service centre.

In a letter to the school community dated August 20, chair of the board of trustees Tony Lenton stated that both the board and the principal, Ben Fuller, were “unequivocally against” the proposed facility.

“It is our role to ensure that the children are at the centre of our decision
making,” Mr Lenton wrote.

He told NZ Catholic it was far from a done deal, however, and despite the general feeling of unease in the community, any comments would only be conjecture at this point.

Gina Macdonald, who has started an online petition against the proposed facility, wrote in the petition that parents were “hugely concerned” about the risk to their children.

“This is one of the major traffic hotspots in Tauranga that the Tauranga City Council is clearly struggling to come up with a solution for,” she wrote. “Increasing the traffic to this area with an extra 150 people on a daily basis
is absolutely nonsensical.”

The petition currently has 463 signatories.

Mark Nijssen, the Bay of Plenty district manager for the Department of Corrections, told NZ Catholic that the department was engaging with the community for feedback, and no final decision had been made at present.

“Engagement is ongoing with local residents and organisations. . . once community engagement is complete, a decision will be made regarding an application to Tauranga City Council for their consideration and approval of our proposal,” he said.

Mr Nijssen said the proposed site, which would increase the number of staff from around 100 to 120, was designed to account for future population growth in the Tauranga area.

He also said the current Community Corrections sites, in Tauranga CBD, Greerton, and Mt Maunganui, were also located near schools, early learning centres and other community facilities.

“Public safety is our top priority,” Mr Nijssen said.

“We have processes and strategies in place to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the community, staff and any visitors to our sites. Our experience is that offenders attending scheduled appointments at our sites will attend for their appointment and then leave, rather than remain in the area,” he said.

He also said any impact on parking would be assessed through the resource
consent process.

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