4 Aug 2023

Maori warden on second Auckland shooting in two weeks

From Checkpoint, 5:26 pm on 4 August 2023

A Māori Warden who regularly volunteers on street patrols in downtown Auckland says more volunteers could help fight violence on the streets after Thursday night's shooting where two people were injured. One person later died of their injuries. 

Māori wardens volunteer their service throughout Aotearoa - they are not police, but they help keep the peace. Approximately 900 wardens work through the country today.

Virginia Shortland volunteers in Auckland, and said Thursday's violence, which came only a few weeks after a gunman killed two people at a downtown construction site, was traumatic. 

"Any crime of violence in the city, particularly with gun violence, it is a shock for a lot of people in the city, residents included, and the public."

Many different groups patrolled the city, including police and Māori wardens, she said. 

"Our values as Māori wardens is aroha, kaitangata, which is care and respect for all people.

"Our number one priority on the streets is to have a presence, a calm presence for our public and our businesspeople, to make that connection with people on the streets and to ask them how are you doing, are you OK?

"We're about community safety which is inclusive of everybody that's in the CBD, no matter where they come from or what they're doing in the city, at that particular time, or any other area that we're patrolling across Auckland." 

Maori Warders run a checkpoint at Shelly Bay

Māori wardens work throughout the country.  Photo: RNZ / Angus Dreaver

Police also said they would be increasing visibility in downtown Auckland

Acting Superintendent Sunny Patel, Relieving Auckland City District Commander said in a statement: "As we head into the weekend and over the coming weeks, police remain focused on ensuring people are safe and feel safe coming into the city".

"Our beat and front-line staff continue to be focused on being present in our community while deploying from our patrol base on Federal Street and the Auckland City Police Hub.

"The additional staffing to support our deployment, following last night's shooting on Queen Street has come from across Tāmaki Makaurau to increase our presence and to prevent crime."

The wardens' role was to ease tensions if they saw them rising, Shortland said. 

"That's part of our warden training is de-escalation," and police offered training to help them develop those skills.

More volunteers working in the community could help de-escalate rising violence, she said.

"I think that whenever we have volunteer groups and an increase in volunteers in any part of our community, that's got to help and support our New Zealand Police."

Barriers to recruitment of volunteers included the costs they might incur. 

Shortland said she still felt safe in downtown Auckland despite recent events.

"Yes I do, and part of that is because we work as a team. And part of that is because we have a relationship with other groups that are out there on patrols.

"We're well aware that we are volunteers and there are other paid groups out there with contracts that are also working in the same areas.

"But because of our values, aroha, kaitangata, that's one of the strengths of the Māori wardens, but again that is a mitigating factor. 

"It is very, very challenging to have our volunteers come and give their time and really, foot the costs to be able to come and be a volunteer."