Queenstown bar owners appear relaxed about a district-wide
police initiative that has involved officers going undercover
in the resort during last month's Winter Festival.
In an operation the Hospitality Association has called
''outrageous'', Southern district police have begun
stationing plainclothes officers in licensed premises to
ensure licensees are complying with the Sale and Supply of
The approach was first applied during the Queenstown Winter
Festival, with Otago rural prevention manager Senior Sergeant
Allan Grindell confirming the operation involved four
plainclothes staff visiting 22 licensed premises over two
nights late last month.
The initiative will run throughout the Southern police
district until July next year, with police focusing on how
well licensees prevent patrons from becoming intoxicated, and
how they manage patrons who are already intoxicated.
Hospitality Association chief executive Bruce Robertson told
the Otago Daily Times yesterday undercover officers
would be ''spying on patrons'', and that licensees should be
inspected by uniformed police officers.
However, Watertight Group owner Michael Burgess, who co-owns
five Queenstown bars, said he did not have a problem with the
''It is a covert operation, but at the end of the day, if
you're playing with a straight bat you've got nothing to
''It may be that it's the best approach.''
He hoped the police would take a co-operative rather than
punitive approach to deal with issues that emerged, and work
with bar owners to sort them out.
''We invest a lot of time, money and effort to make sure we
comply with the law.
''It's not an exact science and we don't get it right all the
The Bunker Restaurant and Bar owner Cameron Mitchell said
covert operations by police in licensed premises were
''nothing new'', but their resources could be better spent
''putting more uniforms on the streets''.
The general public was more likely to be upset by the
undercover approach than bar owners, who had to deal with the
effects of low-priced alcohol and pre-loading, Mr Mitchell
Bar owners invested a lot of money in their businesses, and
were ''operating a controlled environment where people can
have a good time''.
He was planning an initiative in which bar owners and
security companies would work with police and the Queenstown
Lakes District Council to employ social media to create an
information-sharing network to deal with intoxicated patrons.
Such networks had been successful in Australia and smaller
provincial centres in New Zealand such as Nelson, he said.
Snr Sgt Grindell said the officers involved in the operation
in Queenstown had made notes on what they observed.
That information was being reviewed and ''action of some form
could still be taken''.
No patrons of the premises visited by the officers had been
arrested or warned as a result of the monitoring.
It had been the first such deployment of officers in the
Southern Police District, and there would be ''learnings''
from the exercise, he said.
''Although no direct interventions were carried out on the
night, the staff involved gathered a considerable amount of
information on patron behaviour, host responsibility and some
Plainclothes officers would be deployed in Queenstown again
''at some time during the year''.