Examples of violent behaviour were isolated in mayor Gary Kircher’s experience as a Work and Income New Zealand employee, however the Ashburton shootings have seen security stepped up in offices around the country and things won’t ever be the way they were, he says.
Mr Kircher was commenting about the effect on staff in the Oamaru office of Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) following the shooting of three employees in Ashburton by beneficiary, Russell John Tully, recently.
“It’s been really encouraging to see people rallying around staff in Oamaru, sending messages of support and small gifts,” he said.
“There is a higher standard of security there now, it’s a pity, but that’s the way it is.”
“Things are starting to settle down and staff are working their way through issues.”
In a letter addressed to community partners, Debbie Power, Ministry of Social Development, said controlled access to all offices had been introduced which meant people may be asked to show identification and have a specific reason for going inside.
“We’re encouraging our clients to ring the contact centre to make an appointment before coming in,” she said.
“It’s important that clients still come to their appointments and we’re making these changes to reinforce that clients and staff feel safe at our offices.”
Mr Kircher said his time as a work broker was ‘an eye-opener’ as some people came into the office with a sense of entitlement, and there were those who were in genuine need through a situation of misfortune or whatever, he said.
“I think a natural consequence (of the shootings) is that staff will be more cautious and looking out for warning signs.”
The job had rewarding moments though, he said, like getting someone back into work that hadn’t worked for a long time and for those staff dealing with case studies, giving the assistance needed to get people back on their feet.
By LINDA MCCARTHY
NEW RULES: Signage that has been erected at the Work and Income New Zealand office in Oamaru and nationwide.