Police ready for busy summer season

Wānaka Senior Sergeant Chris Brooks. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
Wānaka Senior Sergeant Chris Brooks. PHOTO: ARCHIVE
As plans begin to shape up for the annual round of parties and festivals to celebrate Christmas and New Year, Wānaka police have promised to be out in force at crowded places and tackle poor driving and drinking behaviours. 

Wānaka Senior Sergeant Chris Brooks said this week his team would  again be supplemented by about 50 officers from the Southern region over the festive period.

The team "went pretty hard" last summer, issuing "a lot" of infringement notices for drinking in public places between December 28 and January 2, he said.

They also had a big role in harm prevention, keeping an eye on crowded places and public events for a range of unsafe behaviours including potential for sexual harm.

While the roads between Wānaka and Queenstown were always busy during the summer holiday period, Snr Sgt Brooks said there could be more traffic between the towns as revellers attended one or both the annual Rhythm & Alps Festival in the Cardrona

Valley and the first Bay Dreams Festival at Frankton.

"The Crown Range, no doubt about it, it is a road that we police a lot, just because it is accessible to Wānaka and Queenstown, and it is an alpine range and visitors to Wānaka may not know it that well," he said.

Last year, poor drinking behaviour was "quite noticeable".

Young people last year had commonly reported they got alcohol from someone else, including parents, and one parent ended up being prosecuted for supplying alcohol to a 13-year-old, he said.

"We have been dealing with parents who let their kids out without any sort of a [safety] plan ... We have also been speaking with the council about ... improvements in barriers on public roads, after a couple of close calls with vehicles entering pedestrian areas," he said.

Community organisations such as the Lions Club, the Wānaka Rowing Club, St John Ambulance and others had offered to help with various activities during the public events, Snr Sgt Brooks said.

Police would also be working with event organisers and the council to promote the government’s crowded places strategy, he said.

The strategy was developed in response to the 2019 mosque attacks in Christchurch and other mass casualty events around the world.

The strategy was designed to help owners and operators of crowded places protect the lives of  people in their place.

It enables a consistent approach to protecting crowded places, using responses in proportion to the threat.