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Kristin Macfarlane Editorial inquiries and news tips 07 349 7478 noticeable drop” in antisocial behaviour and crime in the Rotorua CBD is being applauded by the Rotorua Lakes Council and police, but others say it’s too soon to celebrate.
A month ago the two organisations jointly launched a central city summer safety campaign, after complaints from businesses, and police survey results showing many people felt unsafe in the inner city at night.
Last week, Rotorua police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said so far only a few arrests had been made, and just a handful of people were responsible for most issues.
Rotorua Mayor Steve Chadwick said that was “really pleasing”. “People’s safety is paramount.” However, in councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait’s opinion, “it is far too early to sing the praises”.
“You don’t get anti-social and criminal behaviour with hordes of people around. And the city has been very busy. I live in the city and the police and additional security staff have been very visible.”
When the council launched the summer safety plan, chief executive Geoff Williams said “clearly this is an area that we hadn’t budgeted for, to the level that we currently are”.
It will decide whether to continue with the campaign and its costs at the end of February.
“If the joint effort is successful why . . . should it be stopped?” RaukawaTait said yesterday.
Hennessy’s Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy agreed.
He spoke out about the
CBD problem in a letter to councillors last month, just before the changes were made.
At the time, he called for the night shelter on Pukuatua St to be moved out of the central city, saying Rotorua was turning into a “zombie town”.
“We definitely saw a drop while there was a forceful presence, and that’s all we’ve ever asked for as retailers. The two or three weeks of Christmas and New Year were great, but that’s not going to solve 52 weeks of the year.” He said the perpetrators had been “creeping back” in the past few days. “I haven’t seen police and security as much . . . it’s certainly nowhere near where the problem we had, but I expect it to return to the same level unless the presence remains. “It’s cat and mouse sometimes. The trouble is back very quickly when police leave. We are open from 9am in the morning to 1am the next day so we see it all.” He also said there was “not a lot security can do sometimes”. “They can’t arrest people, and we understand that. They do the best job they can.” Hennessy told the Rotorua Daily Post the problem behaviour had been “disgusting”. “Hitting people up for money, food and cigarettes continually, in many cases it’s aggressively too. It’s a particular problem for our people sitting outside on the street. “Sometimes it’s beyond unacceptable,
quite violent. Just people being general a**holes and intimidatory. Sitting where they shouldn’t and that.
“It’s amazing the number of tourists who have highlighted the issue to us. It certainly shows the underbelly of Rotorua, that we aren’t just a bubbly city with attractive spots.”
Tiny Deane, who manages the Visions of Helping Hand Charitable Trust homeless shelter and services said: “If the council’s happy that’s a good thing, even though I have received a lot of calls of concern from stakeholders in Pukuatua St in the last few days.”
He said the shelter had full-time security, and he had brought in a “no loitering” policy outside the entrance.
Deane said the key to getting people off the streets, was educating them and teaching them skills, “not pushing them out of town”.
Since the summer safety plan started, Pewhairangi said “things have been pretty quiet” but “there is still more work to be done”.
He said the council security partnership “means if we are having to deal with issues elsewhere, we know we still have eyes and ears on the ground in the CBD”.
The Safe City Guardians, who are part of the summer safety campaign, were honoured at the Rotorua Police Awards last month.
The team responds to more than 500 incidents a year, most of which are identified through monitoring of live CCTV footage.
From left, Safe City Guardian Marcelle Morrison, Constable Marc Van Krieken, Watchdog Security staff member Trevayze Wairepo and VR Security staff member Hemiora Riki.