Lower Hutt tries bus-stop vibe to grate on young ears

BARRY MANILOW and Bach are blaring at the central Lower Hutt bus stops in a bid by the mall, city council and police to limit the number of young people hanging out there.

For the past five months, Westfield Queensgate has had speakers playing older-style, easy-listening music so that groups of youngsters don’t block the mall entrance or intimidate others.

Westfield Community Constable Paula Harris says she has had a positive response from the public.

She has heard the comment that now, “people can walk in and out without having to walk through [the kids]”.

Young people spoken to by NewsWire find the music annoying, but say it won’t keep them away.

Leitu Parsons, 17, says: “They started [playing] it to get rid of the Hutt bums. It worked in the beginning but then everyone started using their own phones to play their own music and ignoring it.”

Westfield Queensgate spokesperson Debra McGhie says the scheme is a success, and calls the music “a subtle deterrent”.

“Any music that’s played there would be easy listening. The youth don’t particularly like standing round listening to that music,” she says.

The music is played from 9am until the mall closes at 6pm from Saturday to Wednesday and 9pm on Thursday and Friday nights.

Lower Hutt central ward councillor Deborah Hislop says the music enriches the area, but doesn’t see children at the bus stop as a problem.

“I think the fact is that children always congregate where their friends are … at any given time there’s a mixture of people using the bus stops.” She says there are places for teens to go in Lower Hutt, such as the youth centre Secret Level on High St.

On a recent Thursday night, the bus stops on Bunny St were filled with teenagers, some in school uniforms, several smoking.

One teen said she would rather hear anything than the music the mall played, but didn’t know where else she and her friends could go.

Another youth was shocked to hear that the music is played especially to move teenagers away. He said: “They should just tell us. We’re not all naughty teenagers.”

One 17-year-old girl said the music was ineffective, but had been getting louder.

The council’s safe city officer, Adrian Peoples, also mentions Secret Level as an option for teens and says Queensgate security may raise the level of music any time the number of young people at the bus stops increases.

He says it’s something which works well for the council. “In the [Tutukiwi Orchid and Fern] House it has been very effective and the congregating there has stopped…

“[Teens] may not be conscious of it, but they don’t like it and they disperse. We want to keep the bus stop seats for people catching the bus, old people, people with shopping.”

Constable Harris says noise levels are checked regularly. She also says it’s better that the majority of the public feel safe to use the area than that a few young people have a place to hang out.

“I’d prefer they didn’t hang out anywhere in the Hutt after dark and smoke and drink.” She acknowledges there aren’t many options for youth in Lower Hutt.

Other cities in New Zealand use music to “pacify” youth in public areas. In March, the Associated Press reported that Christchurch City Council uses music to change the atmosphere of the central mall district. NewsWire last year revealed Andy Williams worked well in Hamilton.


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