20 Jan 2009

Minister breaks up mall fight

7:35 pm on 20 January 2009

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett has described how she waded in to stop a fight outside a west Auckland mall after becoming angry that a group of young people was making shop workers fearful.

Ms Bennett said she was about to enter the West City mall in Henderson at 4.30pm on Saturday when she saw between four and six girls fighting. They were part of a group of about 30 young people, and others were beginning to get involved.

She said the group needed to be separated, and she used what she called a "stern, mother, angry voice that can dispel a crowd".

Ms Bennett said she knew she was not going to back down, and was incensed at the effect of the fighting on shop workers.

"(I was) angry that there were people ... hiding in their shops and had locked their doors. And I just thought, who are they to make us that fearful of our own community?"

Ms Bennett said a group of 11-year-olds and 12-year-olds had been hanging out in the area, sometimes for up to nine hours a day.

Prime Minister John Key defended Ms Bennett's intervention, saying it was a brave move on her part.