Police happy with crowds

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Wanaka police are pleased to report a “steady” New Year period, despite what some people described as the busiest period the town has ever seen.

Senior Sergeant Allan Grindell said 12 arrests were made between December 28 and January 3, with offences including assaults and damage.

“Most were relatively minor, so that was pleasing,” he said.

Police from Dunedin travelled to the area to support the Wanaka staff, he said.

The biggest events were Rhythm and Alps, a New Year’s Eve celebration in the Wanaka CBD, and various music concerts at the Lake Hawea Hotel, he said.

“We really had no major issues with any of those events or locations.”

Held at Cardrona, the Rhythm and Alps festival attracted almost 10,000 people on New Year’s Eve.

Snr Sgt Grindell said the festival meant people in the 20- to 30-year-old age bracket were absent from the CBD celebrations.

From a police perspective, the number of people in town for the New Year’s celebrations were similar to previous years, he said.

“Certainly from what we saw of the CBD at night it was similar to other years.

“People had commented anecdotally that they’d never seen a town so busy.”

Over New Year, police introduced an initiative aimed at educating teenagers about the dangers of alcohol, ordering some offenders to write essays on the dangers of alcohol on the teenage brain rather than pay a fine.

Almost 100% or 35 of the young people caught offending opted to write an essay for police and while the method was quite resource-intensive, police planned to continue the initiative again next New Year’s and perhaps even at other festive occasions, he said.

Lake Outlet Holiday Park owner Glenn Tattersall said this week the park had experienced one of its busiest starts to the season.

“It was more intense.

“We were pretty much full from Boxing Day onwards.

“The pressure is only just coming off now.”

Numerous international visitors travelling to Wanaka had underestimated how busy the area would become and were having trouble finding accommodation, as they had failed to book in advance.

Along with more international visitors, there were also more domestic visitors, he said.

“The behaviour and character of everyone has been outstanding.

“We’re not complaining at all.”

But the holiday period was not all smooth sailing, with cars banked up as parking bays in the town centre quickly filled and numerous vehicles parking illegally on the lakefront and damaging grass verges.

Queenstown Lakes District councillor Quentin Smith, of Wanaka, said he was “really disappointed to see the level of abuse and apathy” shown by visitors to the Wanaka environment.

“It’s great to see people out with friends and family having a good time but really disappointing to see the down side of broken glass everywhere and the total destruction of some of our grass areas on the foreshore.”