Wellington councillor fights for action on sexual assault

6:52 am on 22 May 2018

A Wellington city councillor has been criticised for being heavy-handed in her efforts to rid the city of sexual assault.

No caption

Photo: 123RF

The council has made a commitment through its Long Term Plan (LTP) to do what it can to rid the city of sexual violence - an initiative led by councillor Fleur Fitzsimons.

Hospitality New Zealand (HNZ) in Wellington made a submission to council about its approach to sexual assault and regional manager Raewyn Tan said the industry was already doing what it could to stamp out the problem.

"We are committed to educating our sector and their employees on how to look out for those sorts of cues, and how to step in.

HNZ would speak to its submission this afternoon as it believed the suggestion of mandatory training through licencing regulation was too far.

Ms Tan said it would undermine what the sector was already doing. The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 was onerous enough, and the council needed a more moderate and sensible approach.

However, Ms Fitzsimons said she would not apologise for trying to stop it.

"The current hands-off regulation in this area simply hasn't worked.

"We still have high rates of sexual violence in our central city and the accusation they've made that I'm being heavy-handed or prejudiced when it comes to sexual violence is really heavy-handed and dangerous."

23062016 Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King. Wellington City Council.

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

She did not see why the industry was so opposed to her approach, which included sending bar staff to a day-long course run by the Sexual Abuse Prevention Network.

"If the industry already thinks it's dealing with this adequately then it has nothing to fear.

"If they're genuinely committed to eliminating sexual violence from Wellington they should be embracing our commitment and asking to be part of the conversation in a constructive way, rather than throwing accusations at a city councillor."

Central Wellington bar Rogue and Vagabond owner Gwilym Waldren said his staff knew how to spot a potential predator. The Sexual Abuse Prevention Network had done seminars with his staff to teach them what to look out for.

"It's about looking for problem situations or situations that could evolve into being a problem. [It's about] looking for people who are vulnerable or who are not thinking in a straight and conscious manner in some situations - or looking at someone and thinking their behaviour's a bit off."

Mr Waldren said all bar workers should have to undergo general training - and that could include learning how to mitigate sexual assault.