2 Sep 2015

Opotiki College case: Victims urged to come forward

11:28 am on 2 September 2015

Bay of Plenty police are urging any victims to come forward as they look into allegations of sexual offences involving schoolchildren.

Police said yesterday they were investigating allegations of a "sexual nature" involving students at Opotiki College.

There was no indication the offences happened at the school, or that any staff members were involved, police said.

Opotiki College students are being supported by police, the Ministry of Education, and other agencies as the investigation proceeds.

The Ministry's head of sector enablement and support, Katrina Casey, said the allegations were very concerning, and would affect the school and the wider community.

"The school is being supported by professionals from different agencies, including the Ministry.

"We are supporting its leadership team to minimise disruption to school life and help restore day-to-day routines."

School staff said the college was between principals at the moment, but the Ministry said the support would be available as long as it was needed.

Detective Inspector Mark Loper said the investigation was in its early stages.

"This has involved talking with a number of students who have provided information, and their families, and providing them with the appropriate ongoing assistance.

"Our priority is the well-being of the young people who have provided the information and we have spoken to their families about how we will progress from here."

Mr Loper said anyone with information on the allegations, or who may be a potential victim, should contact police, and that affected students and their families will be kept up to date with the investigation.

Last night, Mr Loper said he appreciated there was concern in the community but asked for patience while the allegations were carefully and methodically investigated.

Anyone with information could call Mr Loper on (07) 348 0099 or CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

Meanwhile, an anti-sexual violence campaigner says the small Bay of Plenty community of Opotiki should not be stigmatised by the allegations.

Kim McGregor, an advocate for survivors of sexual assault, told Morning Report a lot of people will be thinking about the under age sex case in west Auckland, but progress was being made.

"What's different since the Roastbusters case is that there has been a lot more police training, and our sexual violence intervention sector has campaigned long and hard to have government invest in sexual violence prevention."

Mr McGregor said she felts for the families and young people involved in Opotiki.

Whakatohea Maori Trust Board chair Robert Edwards said there was a lot of disbelief in the community around the nature of the claims.

Mr Edwards said a social services team was offering support to the school and the students