Affected parties unite to avoid trouble

Community groups, emergency services and young people are combining this year in an attempt to avoid trouble breaking out in and around Otematata again this Labour Weekend.

Each year, hundreds of young people - mainly senior pupils from South Canterbury and North Otago secondary schools - converge on Otematata to celebrate the unofficial end of the school year, staying in family holiday homes, accommodation or most pitching tents in lakeside camping reserves.

Over the past three years, there has been trouble. Last year, that included bottles thrown at fire officers trying to put out illegal campfires, vandalism, broken glass around and in the town's playgrounds and drunken behaviour.

The situation involving young people, some as young as 14, given alcohol by parents and let loose prompted police to warn they were not babysitters.

The behaviour clashes with families going to the Waitaki lakes to enjoy the first holiday weekend of the camping season.

The attempt to avoid trouble again this year was led on Wednesday by Students Against Driving Drunk, seven representatives from Oamaru's three secondary schools meeting council staff to offer solutions.

Those solutions were taken to another meeting on Thursday between the Waitaki District Council, police, the Waitaki Guardians, rural fire, Waitaki Safer Community Council, parks and reserves officer and camping reserves ranger.

Measures planned for Labour Weekend include setting aside an area away from families for young campers near Loch Laird, with people having to register in Oamaru before the holiday weekend rather than at camp sites. They would register as individuals. Cars would be registered separately.

Other measures included. -

• Signs at Otematata confirming the liquor ban zone.

• A co-ordinated control effort by the council (through the Waitaki Guardians), police, camp ranger and firefighters.

• Extra lighting and fire permits.

• Cars separated from tent sites and from family campers.

- david.bruce@odt.co.nz

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