Arataki Park alcohol and drug free

Michel Rawiri, Tamati Cameron, Taurua Faulkner, Natasha Davies and Regina Walker celebrate the sportsground being declared alcohol and drug free.Photo: Bruce Barnard.

Back in the day it was common practice for some sports teams to break at half-time and crack a couple of cold ones as a means to reward each other’s hard work, show appreciation and strengthen unity – and the Arataki sportsground was no different.

But that’s all changed now, with the Arataki sportsground recently being declared a drug and alcohol-free zone.

The decision to make the sportsground free of drugs and alcohol was made after discussions between representatives from Arataki Sports Club, Tauranga Whalers Rugby League club, Te Runanga O Ngai Te Rangi Iwi Trust, Community Action Youth And Drugs and Tauranga City Council.

Tauranga Whalers Rugby League club coordinator Regina Dee says it’s about time this change was made to the much-loved community grounds.

“I’m just glad that it’s happened now and it should have happened a long time ago,” says Regina.

“A lot of people didn’t really notice [the change] at first. In the end we explained that it wasn’t for adults – it was for our kids’ sakes.

“It’s just a great thing for our community as well.”

Signs positioned in plain sight telling visitors they are not allowed to drink or consume drugs on the sportsground will help support the ban.

“For many years there has been a normalised culture in Arataki, and probably throughout the nation, where we would head down to the local fields to support and enjoy the aggressively competitive international sport of rugby, accompanied by a few lagers and brewskys,” says Taurua Faulkner, who is CAYAD manager at Ngai Te Rangi.

“In many cases and different places, [alcohol] has led to some very confronting altercations between rivalries – some disrespectful words exchanged and directed at players, coaches, referees and opposing team supporters. All while the innocence of our kids and families are in amongst it,” says Taurua.

The second of a three-generation family member of the Arataki Sport Club, junior management committee rugby coordinator and CAYAD kaimahi Mickel Rawiri was the driving influence behind the initiative. Mickel says he grew up around the grounds and saw the effects of alcohol.

“As a young man growing up playing rugby on and around the fields of Arataki, I’ve seen some of the effects that alcohol has caused our families and kids on and off the field.

“Alcohol has been associated with rugby and other sports for as long as I can remember, not only at a grassroots level but at an international level as well.”

Arataki Rugby Sports president Charlie Russell thinks people will be “quite proud of the progress we’re making for our community”.

“It’s just a way of setting the standard of behaviour for any of the children heading into the area. It’s just a way that we can give back to our community and to build up that comradery and community spirit.”

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