Police getting prepared

Up to 80 resident and visiting police officers will be rostered to keep the Wakatipu's streets and roads safe on the days surrounding New Year's Eve, when Queenstown becomes a virtual ''Queens-city''.

The resort's average population of 46,000 residents and visitors a day swells to about 90,000 during the peak summer season.

Among the causes for concern are alcohol abuse, leading to drink-driving and disorderly behaviour, adverse effects from ''herbal highs'', and poor driving, leading to frustration and accidents.

Senior Sergeant John Fookes, officer in charge of Queenstown police, said a significant added factor this year was the inaugural Rhythm and Alps music festival, which was expected to attract more than 7500 revellers.

While the festival on December 30 and 31 would be near Cardrona, and be managed by Wanaka police, it was unclear whether it would lift Queenstown visitor numbers.

Asked what summer seasonal issues Queenstown police were prepared to deal with, Snr Sgt Fookes said alcohol and the increase in visitors were the big issues.

''What we try and do is get out the message for those who are here, to drink responsibly if they are going to drink,'' he said.

''Some of the keys are looking after your mates and the others in your group. Take responsibly for their own actions and some for keeping an eye on your friends and maybe quietly pulling them back into line when that's needed.

''Some people think when you're on tour the usual rules don't apply. We'd simply say they do, and keep a check on your behaviour.

''If you look after yourself in terms of your level of sobriety, you are far less likely to be a victim of all sorts of offending, including violent offending and any form of sexual assault.

''The rates of reported sexual assaults are very low, but that doesn't mean to say there aren't some things you can do.''

More drink-drivers than usual are anticipated over the festive period.

Queenstown police in marked and unmarked patrols will be bolstered by the highly visible ''booze buses'' of the Rural Drink-Drive Squad, of Alexandra, and the Traffic Alcohol Group, of Invercargill, all dedicated to the apprehension of drink-drivers on the roads and at checkpoints.

Snr Sgt Fookes said a drink-driving conviction in court meant an instant loss of driving licence and had other detrimental implications with insurance and liability for costs.

Overseas visitors who were convicted of drink-driving were referred by police to Immigration New Zealand.

If the offender was in the country on a temporary visa, the conviction was likely to make the person ineligible for a residency visa and, in extreme cases, they could be deported.

''If you're going out to a function, or into town, plan in advance how you're going to get home, whether that's involving taxis, a designated driver or public transport,'' Snr Sgt Fookes said.

''You're far better to do that planning before you go out because once you've been out for a few hours you aren't necessarily in the best condition to attend to those details.''

Sergeant Linda Stevens, as alcohol harm reduction officer, said the vast majority of licensees around the Wakatipu region were responsible operators doing a difficult job well.

The 24-hour liquor ban begins on December 27 at 6am and runs until 6am on January 6.

People cannot possess or drink alcohol within the liquor ban area, which covers Queenstown's central business district, all of the Lake Wakatipu foreshore from the One Mile Roundabout to Park St and includes the Queenstown Gardens.

Snr Sgt Fookes warned people not to underestimate the effects and consequences of synthetic legalised highs.

Some people believed that because the highs were legal, they were harmless, he said.

''It's been our experience some of those products create bizarre behaviour, including violent behaviour in some people. And, do not mix alcohol with anything else.''

Wakatipu roads are busier in summer and used by drivers of many nationalities with differing levels of experience.

''Patience is key, give yourself plenty of time to get where you're going and try to avoid getting too frustrated by the actions of other road users,'' he said.

''That said, we strongly encourage people to ring us on *555 if they see driving that is likely to present a danger to other road users.

"The early intervention with drivers who are behaving in that manner is definitely a good thing to do to prevent road trauma.''

Trampers, climbers and hunters will venture out into the back-country in droves this summer and could become injured or lost, prompting costly search-and-rescue operations.

Snr Sgt Fookes said the messages from police were: go well-equipped, do not leave valuables in vehicles, check the weather forecast and factor how it will affect the planned route, and leave detailed intentions with someone trustworthy, including a due-out date and, if applicable, a ''panic date''.

''We'd strongly encourage taking a personal locator beacon because if you do strike trouble then you're very easy to find, and taking a GPS (global positioning system) and knowing how to use it,'' he said.

Plenty of people will be using the waterways and police asked that people enjoy the lakes and rivers responsibly by wearing life jackets, checking equipment before sailing and being considerate of other users.