This big city officer makes time to work with school children on a remote island in the Hauraki Gulf.
There are many things special about life for tamariki growing up on Aotea, Great Barrier Island. It’s a place of gumboots and the bush, close friendships, and winding roads that lead over steep hills to another beach, another bay.
When it comes to getting about safely, there’s much to be aware of, and Senior Constable Gordon Campbell travels across from Auckland to help. As a School Community Officer, the three schools of Aotea are part of his beat.
“Aspects of road safety on the island are completely different to my usual urban setting. There are no footpaths on the roads. There’s no centre line marked on the road. So we take the kids on walks to help them figure out where's the safest places to be walking.”
In another tailor-made activity, he takes students to the local airfield when no planes are active, to learn how to judge the speed of oncoming vehicles. An instructor drives a car at varied speeds on the tarmac, with students guessing how fast they are going.
Gordon says he has a good working relationship with Auckland Transport staff including Rhanae Ngawaka.
“We do combined programmes, for example to help young people get through their learner licences. We go over and run this through the Aotea Learning Hub, which supports teenagers doing correspondence schooling.”
Most Aotea students move to the city of Auckland itself (‘town’ as island folk call it) and become boarders when it is time for secondary school. It’s a big change. And among the shift in lifestyle, they need to learn how to travel safely in the city.
Auckland Transport supports taiohi (young people) with an orientation visit in the year preceding their move. It’s a chance to learn about the public transport system, and who is available to help.
This is where Gordon meets again with their familiar faces, talking through road safety in an urban environment.
“We get into things like traffic lights for example – when the crossing signal changes from a red man to a green man, what's the first thing you do? And they all say walk. Well actually, you don't walk, you've got to have a look to make sure the traffic's actually stopped, because of the risk that a driver has gone through the red light. It’s building that awareness of their surroundings.”