Peace declared in Castle St

An initiative to establish a Zone of Peace in Castle St, North Dunedin, has given people food for thought. Brenda Harwood takes a look at the concept.

It is hoped non-violence in word and action will become the norm in Castle St, North Dunedin, which is to become a Zone of Peace.

The initiative is being promoted by staff and students of the National Centre For Peace and Conflict Studies, who are calling on local organisations, residents and students for support.

Centre researcher Dr SungYong Lee said the formation of the Zone of Peace called for those using the space to proactively work towards a peaceful community.

''This is a chance for us to think intentionally about how we want to treat each other, how we might generate a sustainable future for the street . . [and how] to resolve issues between us amicably and non-violently,'' Dr Lee said.

The Castle St Zone of Peace, which will be launched with a lunchtime street party on August 1, will initially encompass Castle St from the St David Lecture Theatre complex to Dundas St.

The area is busy with students night and day and includes many organisations associated with the university, such as Selwyn College, the Otago University Childcare Association early-childhood centre, the Centre for Sustainability, the Office of Maori Development, as well as the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies itself.

Centre postgraduate student Griffin Leonard said Castle St was chosen both for the array of organisations it contained, but also because there were occasionally violent incidents in the area. The Zone of Peace concept was suggested earlier this year by visiting academic and international peace activist Professor Ed Garcia, who had been concerned by some reported behaviour and by children having to pass broken bottles on their way the preschool.

''What we really want to establish is a warm and peaceful environment for living and work,'' Mr Leonard said.

As the Zone of Peace developed, individuals and organisations would be encouraged to dedicate themselves to three key goals - supporting a sense of neighbourhood, maintaining non-violent interactions and promoting a sustainable environment, Dr Lee said.

''We also want to encourage the individuals who live and pass through Castle St to make their own commitment to the concept.''

''In the future, if the initiative goes well, it could possibly be expanded into a wider area - perhaps Dunedin could eventually become a city of peace,'' he said.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said he was impressed with the Zone of Peace concept, describing it as ''a wonderfully innovative'' idea.

''If the Zones of Peace doubled in size every year, we could have them all across Dunedin, which could be great for the city,'' he said.

Otago University Students' Association president Ruby Sycamore-Smith welcomed the Zone of Peace, saying Dunedin students needed an environment where they could feel safe and at home.

''Some students already feel homesick and have a sense of uncertainty with the pressures of study.

''To have a calm, peaceful and tranquil place to reflect is a necessity for them,'' she said.

Zone Of Peace

No reason why the whole of Dunedin couldn't be a City of Peace, is there?  Imagine the impact that would have!