Romsey Neighbourhood House committee member John Banford in front of the vandalised garden.

By Jackson Russell

ISSUES of vandalism and anti-social behaviour by Romsey youth have caused concern throughout the community, with residents being encouraged to look out for one another.

Romsey Neighbourhood House’s edible garden was trampled and vandalised last week, with residents telling The Free Press about several instances of vandalism and anti-social behaviour taking place at the skate park in the Lions Reserve on Main Street.

Romsey Neighbourhood House co-ordinator Michelle Balthazar said the destruction of the garden left volunteers ‘devastated’.

“We want people to come and help themselves to [the garden] – that’s what it’s all about – but it’s disappointing when kids think it’s fun to destroy things when they’re more than welcome to come and pick things for their families,” she said.

Ms Balthazar said some members of the community had started to feel unsafe.

“I got feedback from a young mum who said she loves going to the skate park with her kids but doesn’t feel able to go there anymore,” she said.

“Another gentleman, a father, tried to confront the youth and they spat in his face so there have been some incidents.

“I really want to work closer with the police towards trying to create a safer community that looks out for one another and I’ve been looking at some safer communities grants we might be able to apply for, particularly around the skate park.

“We live in a beautiful community in a beautiful town and one thing we love about our community is that feeling of community safety and we want to ensure that feeling continues for everyone.”

Romsey Region Business and Tourism Association president Jenny Stillman said it was disappointing to see such vandalism in Romsey.

“You’ve got organisations like the neighbourhood house that are here mainly to support the vulnerable and the whole community, so it’s disappointing that some members of our community find it easier to be destructive rather than constructive,” she said.

“I feel for the neighbourhood house team. They’ve done some amazing work, especially this year, and it’s tough for them and the community they’re trying to help.”

Ms Balthazar said Romsey Neighbourhood House was in the process of setting up a youth initiative to create better youth engagement.

“We’re in the process of working on a youth initiative to engage with our youth, create a greater connectiveness with the community and create opportunities for youth to discover their skills, talents and strengths rather than focusing on anti-social behaviour,” she said.

Romsey Neighbourhood House committee member John Banford said he had spent hours tending to the garden.

“Myself and a few others are in the middle of starting a youth group here to get them off the streets and it’s just heartbreaking,” he said.

“It’s the community vegetable garden, we’re here for them so why would they go and do that?

“I used to be one of these kids on the street once. I know what it’s like to get bored.

“That’s why we’re starting a youth group. We’ll take them fishing to get outdoors, stop them hanging around the streets as much, and get them involved in the community.”

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