News | 16 February 2022
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Roadmap to prevent sexual harm in our city

Wellington City Council is teaming up with the community to create a roadmap that aims to prevent sexual harm in our city.

Five young woman, dressed casually and wearing masks, walking down an alleyway with posters on the left, a bright mural on the right, and a covered brown overbridge ahead.

The sexual violence prevention action plan is being developed as part of the Pōneke Promise, a coordinated, community driven initiative to keep our city safe.

The key focus of the new action plan is primary prevention – or prevention of violence before it happens.

Members of the Wellington Alliance Against Sexual Violence (WAASV) teamed up with the Council’s Urban team to conduct an audit from Dixon Street to Courtenay Place to identify areas and features that enable a feeling of being unsafe and where potential violence could occur.

Kelly Henderson, Council’s Team Leader Centres and City Regeneration, says the Pōneke Promise Urban Regeneration team will collate the concerns, queries and suggestions gathered along the walk.

We’ll record this information as part of our research process and use it to inform decisions we make about improving public space in the central city, the Pōneke Promise site area.”

Kelly says walk-abouts have also been conducted with accessibility advisors to find out how to make the area more accessible for people living with disabilities.  

A group of young women huddle on and around park benches in a central city paved area with cabbage trees, as a flock of birds fly overhead and a yellow bus travels past on the road behind them.

Acting City Partnerships Manager Amy Bird says WAASV – an alliance of organisations that represent a large network of young people and students, gender minorities and their allies – has led the call for efforts to curb sexual violence in the city.

“We do see a higher concentration of reported sexual assault in the central city than other parts of Wellington, which is a key reason why reducing sexual harm in this area is a key focus in the Pōneke Promise.”

And according to the Ministry of Justice, the extent of the problem is much greater than reported statistics suggest, with an estimated 94 percent of sexual assaults in New Zealand going unreported to Police.

Amy says WAASV members, many of whom are young women who use the Courtenay Place area at night, shared valuable insights.

“Making better use of the spaces we have to gather and activating these spaces was suggested, as well as bringing in more light, colour and greenery into the centre, more fit-for-purpose seating, and creating more space for pedestrians.

Five young women wearing masks, standing in a huddle and holding paperwork, on the street next to a maroon-coloured building.

“A lot of feedback gained was in relation to the part licenced venues have to play in contributing to safety – such as how they manage the transition onto the street and manage issues in their venues.”

She says one of the key projects under the action plan is a collaboration with Hospitality NZ and RespectEd Aotearoa to prevent sexual violence in licenced venues.

“Funded through the 2021 Long Term Plan, this project entails rolling out bystander training for venue staff that builds on the great work done by initiatives such as Don’t Guess the Yes, and looking at the implementation of an accreditation scheme that venues can sign up to around sexual violence prevention.”

Amy says everyone has a role to play in calling out unacceptable behaviour, building relationships based on respect, and creating an environment where sexual violence is not tolerated.

“The key way we propose to do this is by supporting initiatives which support the development of healthy relationships and challenge the behaviours and attitudes that support sexual violence – things such as harmful ideas about consent, rigid gender roles, and abuse of power.

Three young women, pictured with their heads and lower legs out of shot, standing on concrete with a pot plant below. The woman in the middle is holding a map and is wearing a white shirt and grey trousers.

“We recognise that many groups are already working hard on this and a key focus for us is how they can be supported in their efforts, and how to call in more people to join this work.”

WAASV Urban Planning Coordinator Hannah Pym says the alliance is an ambitious group dedicated to mobilising the vision for a safer, increasingly accessible and inclusive city, free from sexual violence.

“Revisioning areas of the CBD requires a well-rounded approach, representative of those who frequent the spaces. Lived experiences, patterns of concern, community aspirations, and cultural and historical significance of areas, are among the list of factors we are researching and implementing in our mahi,” Hannah says.

Amy says building on a kōrero that began last year, Council is continuing to work with specialists in sexual violence prevention and Te Ao Māori, people with lived experience, community leaders, and agencies to establish key actions over the next three years and set out how the action plan will contribute to the change that we want to see in the city.

“Building on positive changes we’ve already started to see through the Pōneke Promise, we are hoping to continue to see a shift in the dynamics in the central city towards a more respectful environment – where mana is enhanced, and whakapapa protected. This is just as important as the physical changes we are making to the city.”

Six young women standing in a circle talking on the footpath opposite the Opera House, as a double-decker bus approaches on the road beside them.

Find out more about the initiatives happening under the Pōneke Promise at and visit our interactive site.