'They don’t fear anyone': Youths run amok in Southland town

Concerned about the behaviour of some young people in the Mataura Library and Service Centre are ...
Concerned about the behaviour of some young people in the Mataura Library and Service Centre are (from left) Mataura Community Board chairwoman Nicky Coats, librarian Eve Gillman-Trees and Mataura ward councillor Neville Phillips. The library is closing at 2.30pm each day because of the antisocial behaviour of young visitors. Photo: Sandy Eggleston
The Mataura Library and Service Centre will close its doors early as its staff feel threatened by marauding youths running amok in the town, stealing and taunting shopkeepers.

The Gore District Council announced yesterday it was closing the library at 2.30pm until further notice.

The closure was because of safety concerns for staff and the public caused by antisocial behaviour from youth in the area.

Council acting chief executive Stephen Parry said there had been issues with antisocial behaviour from young people aged between 12-19 for some months.

"However, it has escalated in the last few days to the point that our librarian, who works alone most of the time, and our customers don’t feel safe."

Closing early meant the librarian could avoid this situation.

A nearby store manager, who declined to give her name, said the youths had been a problem for the past three months and it had become "too much".

"They are coming in [and] stealing stuff."

When she advised them the shop had security cameras they did not care and laughed.

"They have no embarrassment."

She had not reported the stealing to police yet but told the youths she would contact their parents.

"They don’t have fear of anyone."

When she asked the youths to leave "they are just making faces and showing fingers to us".

There was a bench outside the shop for customers to sit on but the youths sat there and then left their rubbish behind.

People came into the shop and reported the mess and also complained about their behaviour.

They also poured their drinks out in the doorway of the shop.

"There are still so many stains."

In the mornings some of them would walk halfway out on the pedestrian crossing so drivers had to stop and then they walked back.

"It’s annoying to people."

The youths were now pestering the library staff, she said.

Mr Parry said the antisocial behaviour happened when teenagers who were not in school waited for the school buses to drop off their friends.

"Then everyone loiters around the area and in the building."

Mataura ward councillor Neville Phillips said he would meet council general managers and staff on Monday to discuss the issue.

"At the end of the day it’s about making sure that the people, the users of the library and staff are safe.

"We’ll find an outcome that will suit everybody."

Mataura Community Board chairwoman Nicky Coats said it was important the community worked together to "stamp out this terrible behaviour"otherwise a community asset could be lost.

"The library is a life force of the community and we need to protect it and the staff.

"It’s a shame a small minority are wrecking it for the greater community."

In October last year, vandals caused $20,000 worth of damage to property in Mataura, kicking in windows and damaging toilets.

Sergeant Eric Browne, of Gore, said yesterday police had received one complaint about an incident in Mataura concerning the library and obscene language by youths last Monday.

Police could only act on information received and he urged the public to report any incidents of concern.