Good case for races to remain
The Omakau Trots remained incident free for a 53rd year after police made no arrests and no drink-drivers were caught.
The January 2 event was under intense scrutiny and organisers feared the iconic day might not take place after police opposed an alcohol licence application from the Central Otago Trotting Club. One of the concerns was people bringing their own alcohol.
Police eventually backed down, which meant thousands cast rugs, erected brollies, primed deck chairs and sipped beer and wine among family and friends.
A police spokeswoman said no arrests were attributed to the 2017 event and there was nothing to indicate any motorists were processed for drink-driving.
Jason Stuart, of Tapanui, picnicked with his family and said he likely wouldn’t come without being able to bring his own alcohol.
‘‘We wouldn’t be able to afford it,’’ he said.
Peter Ryan, of Alexandra, who had attended the races for years, said: ‘‘It’s a picnic day isn’t it? There’s never been any trouble in the past.’’
He said if he and his wife couldn’t bring a beer along, he possibly would not return.
Trotting Club president Graham Sinnamon said new rules were being enforced after liaising with police, including not advertising it was a BYO event and ensuring bar patrons were kept separate from BYO race-goers.
‘‘We’re trying to establish a dif- ference between a non-BYO event and a BYO event,’’ Sinnamon said. ’’They’re quite different. It’s something that needs clarified at a Government level.’’
The Trotting Club was still in discussions with authorities about the ‘‘grey area’’ and whether the race day would continue in the future, he said.
Otago Lakes-Central area commander Inspector Olaf Jensen was one of the officers patrolling the event and said it was about preventing ‘‘alcohol harm’’ and keeping people safe.
At a June hearing for two special licences to run two bars, Sergeant Jon Harris said: ‘‘There is one thing that is absolute – BYO does not fit on special licences.’’
At the hearing, police argued the race day breached the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act by using an unlicensed premises as a ‘‘Place of Resort’’.
In September, Jensen said police recognised the race meeting was important for the community and police backed down.