Police prepare for seasonal influx

Up to 50 police officers will be on roster to patrol the streets and roads of Queenstown when its average daily population almost doubles during the festive period.

The new $150,000 digital closed-circuit television camera system will be operating around the central business district for the first time this season to help prevent crime and identify offenders.

Regular Queenstown police officers are not taking leave, extra Southern staff will be drafted in, and both the Rural Drink-Drive squad, based in Alexandra, and the Traffic Alcohol Group, in Invercargill, will operate checkpoints.

Queenstown has an average population of 46,000 residents and visitors a day, but that swells to about 90,000 during the peak summer season.

The New Zealand Transport Agency said drink-driving, particularly that by youth, was a serious road safety and public health issue. Younger drivers continued to be the largest problem group.

They caused nearly half of all the alcohol-related road crashes on New Zealand roads.

As a result of these crashes involving young drivers, about 1000 people were injured or killed each year.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, of Queenstown, said last week, that especially during Christmas and New Year celebrations alcohol was a feature in offences.

"One of the best things people can do is plan ahead when considering their transport options.

"If people do see driving they consider to be a danger to other road users, please give us a call on the *555 system.

"The roads at this time of year are busy, and in particular quite a number of overseas drivers are unfamiliar with our roads and the conditions.

"We'd encourage everybody to take a patient approach and think about their fellow road-users and abstain from any driving habits that might put others at risk."

Snr Sgt Fookes said given the large number of licensed premises in Queenstown, quite a number of seasonal workers were employed in bars.

"They are a very valuable resource in setting the tone for the place and we would encourage them to meet their obligations under the Sale of Liquor Act."

Summer weather also encouraged people to explore the Wakatipu back-country and waterways. However, this could lead to more incidents which called for police search and rescue.

Snr Sgt Fookes said trampers should make themselves aware of the weather forecast, the terrain, and pack the appropriate clothes, boots, food and maps. He advised people to carry personal locator beacons, particularly if venturing into remote areas, and comply with fire bans.