Watching for over-the-limit drivers

Police Senior Sergeant Fiona Roberts. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Police Senior Sergeant Fiona Roberts. PHOTO: REGAN HARRIS
Police in Wānaka are reminding motorists to avoid mixing vehicles and alcohol after not one, but two, drunk drivers were found almost four times over the legal limit last weekend.

At separate checkpoints on Friday and Saturday evenings, two drivers had evidential breath test (EBT) results "just below" 1000 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath in their system, Senior Sergeant Fiona Roberts said.

The legal limit for drivers aged 20 years and over is 250 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath.

Snr Sgt Roberts said the results were "really disappointing, as they always are" and cautioned drivers the Impairment Prevention Team (IPT) would be back in Wānaka this week.

Late last month, a driver had 1417 mcg of alcohol per litre of breath in their system after police responded to reports of a car swerving on Cardrona Valley Rd.

Members of the police took to the water with Coastguard Wānaka Lakes on Saturday, as part of an exercise aimed at educating officers on the latter’s role in a search and rescue scenario.

Coastguard Wānaka Lakes president Jonathan Walmisley and his team hosted Sergeant Darren Cranfield, Senior Constable Stephen Burke and Wānaka LandSAR’s Bill Day, who spent the morning learning the capabilities of the coastguard’s vessel, the Waiariki Rescue.

Snr Sgt Roberts said she had been motivated to have her team pair up with the Coastguard after their involvement in a recent search and rescue  job on the Lake Wānaka shoreline.

The experience was also a good reminder for anyone heading out in a boat to get familiar with New Zealand’s boating safety code and follow the five key safety rules — always wearing lifejackets, ensuring the skipper stayed within the limits of the vessel and their own experience, having two separate, waterproof ways of communicating, checking the forecast, and avoiding alcohol.

Elsewhere on the lake, a "flash" boat initially reported to police as having been stolen on Monday morning was later discovered to have simply drifted away with the wind.

"It hadn’t been stolen, it had slipped its mooring," Snr Sgt Roberts said.

The boat was eventually found on the shores of Ruby Island.

The incident was a reminder to all boat owners to make sure their vessel was adequately tied to its moorings, especially during high winds.

On Wānaka’s roads, winter’s imminent arrival meant motorists needed to be mindful of hazards.

"Fog, rain and snow can dramatically reduce visibility. Slow down and pull over. You wouldn’t drive blindfolded, so don’t drive if you can’t see."

She advised drivers to not rely solely on their car electronics to gauge whether conditions were icy or not.

"Just expect it, especially some of those areas that don’t get sunlight throughout the winter months."

She asked that motorists have patience when passing by roading contractors, and encouraged people to register for the Queenstown Lake District Council’s SMS alerts so they could receive updates on any road closures that might impact their journey.

Behind the scenes, Wānaka Police Station last week hosted the Southern District Acting Commander, Superintendent Jason Guthrie.

Across a 30-year span with the police, Supt Guthrie has worked in various roles including 10 years as a frontline constable before moving into leadership roles including OC intel, tactical co-ordinator, area commander and the director of integrity and conduct.

Supt Guthrie’s family has a long legacy with the police. His son joined the force in Wellington in 2022 and his uncle, Sergeant Stewart Guthrie, was posthumously awarded the George Cross for his bravery at Aramoana, where he lost his life.

Snr Sgt Roberts said Supt Guthrie had applied for the permanent position as Southern District  Commander, and he had her station’s full support.

"He’s been in the role, acting, for a month. We’ve seen him up here twice.

"We’ve got a big patch, Otago-Southland, and he’s got the time to come up here.

"He’s a real people person and a fabulous leader and we’re lucky to have him."