Vanessa Mardon’s campaign to place laminated notes of encouragement throughout Hamilton Park for people facing personal crisis struck a bureaucratic hitch.
But after a meeting with the Gore District Council a resolution has been reached and it seems messages of hope in another, more durable form might become a permanent fixture in the town.
Gore District Council staff took down the first batch of messages because they contravened a bylaw.
The council was also contacted by a parent concerned their young children might be confused as to the meaning of one of the signs.
Mrs Mardon and husband Craig met council parks and reserves manager Ian Soper over the matter and Mr Soper consulted Gore Mayor Tracy Hicks in turn.
Mr Soper said while he supported the sentiment behind the initiative, there were bylaws covering signage.
The Gore woman saw a project online where a teenager placed encouraging notes on a bridge to help persuade those contemplating suicide to seek help.
“We totally get where [Mrs Mardon is] coming from,” Mr Soper said.
Mr Soper said his primary concern had been that council regulations about gaining permission to erect signs had not been adhered to. But he acknowledged the worth of the project.
Mr Soper said he floated the idea of having permanent plaques placed at strategic points, not just in Hamilton Park, bearing encouraging messages.
Mrs Mardon said she was “over the moon” when she received a letter from Mr Hicks proposing she and the council work together on the initiative.
- The Gore District Council has said it is keen to work with Vanessa Mardon, who has placed messages of hope in Hamilton Park, but has asked her to adhere to a set of conditions.The council has requested signs not contain any direct reference to suicide or the ending of life.This follows concerns raised by a parent who was required to have a challenging conversation with their young children after they read one of the signs and were confused as to its meaning.
- The council has asked Mrs Mardon to add the Lifeline phone number to each of the signs, ideally in the form of smaller print at the bottom of the signs saying “please phone Lifeline 0800 543-354 for support”.
- Signs are not to be attached using staples, nails or the like to avoid damage and avoid creating a hazard.
- The signs must be maintained, to avoid them becoming a source of litter.
She had received a lot of support for the initiative and had even been given a bunch of flowers, she said.
“I am going to keep going – I’m not going to stop.”
Some of the messages were stapled to trees and park benches.
Mr Soper said they had to be taken down.
“The stapling to trees is an issue,” he said.
Mr Mardon agreed that it was “fair enough” the stapled signs had been removed.
Mr Hicks said he told Mrs Mardon in the letter he wanted to support her efforts by finding a way to display the messages that would mitigate concerns members of the community had raised.
council staff had been asked to leave the remaining signs put up by Mrs Mardon but she had been asked to adhere to a set of conditions, Mr Hicks said.
“In the long term, I am making some inquiries about similar initiatives in other parts of New Zealand and seeking some advice from those qualified in suicide prevention,” Mr Hicks said.
Once he had a bit more information, he would contact her to arrange a meeting to work through options and “progress a more permanent solution”, he told Mrs Mardon in the letter.
Mr Hicks thanked Mrs Mardon for her passion and action in support of local people.
Where to get help:
Healthline 0800 611-116
Lifeline Aotearoa 0800 543-354
Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828-865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
Samaritans 0800 726-666
Alcohol Drug Helpline 0800 787-797
General mental health inquiries: 0800 44-33-66