Police make 22 arrests after rioting in Whangamatā

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The mayor of Thames Coromandel says the parents of under-age drinkers should help to pay for the damage caused by last night’s riot in Whangamatā.

Whangamatā is traditionally a "hot-spot" for police at New Year.

Whangamatā is traditionally a “hot-spot” for police at New Year (file picture). Photo: CC BY-SA 2.0 / russellstreet

Twenty-two people were arrested in the Coromandel holiday hotspot for offences including disorder, assaults and unlawfully being on property.

Police say a number of people were injured from bottles thrown into the crowd which had swelled to about 1000 people.

Today they also arrested a 54-year-old old local man and charged him with inciting disorderly behaviour.

“This related to the live streaming on social media on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day in Whangamata, which captured the man inciting disorder in what was already a challenging policing environment,” police said in a statement this afternoon.

The man was due to appear in Waihi District Court.

“Police ask that people consider the impact that incitement of disorder on social media can have on public order and the safety of our communities,” the statement added.

Mayor Sandra Goudie said a safe zone had to be set up to care for the wounded and seriously intoxicated.

“They just ran riot. A lot of them were drunk and a safe zone was set up to care of the wounded, the sick and the seriously inebriated … like they were ill enough that it threatened their lives.”

Some were as young as 14, Goudie said.

She said not only did they place themselves at risk, but thousands of dollars worth of losses had been incurred by a local iconic cafe, Blackies, through the theft of goods and vandalism.

“Not only did they do horrendous damage when they were massed up on top of the building, they were throwing bottles into the crowd.

“The police had to go in and rescue the people in the crowd being injured, and take them to the safe zone while defending themselves, while at the same getting these larrikins off the roof of the building.”

Eastern Waikato Area Commander Inspector Dean Anderson said a number of people were injured from alcohol bottles being thrown into the crowds,

He said it was disappointing when New Year’s Eve was celebrated well by the majority of people in the area, with positive interactions with police.

“Unfortunately, as has been experienced in previous years, there were hot spots of disorder requiring police resource and attention.

“Whangamatā, particularly the Williamson Park area, required considerable police resource as large groups of youths and family members congregated to see in the New Year.”

Bay of Plenty police also helped with the response.

Goudie said the crowd’s behaviour was totally unacceptable, and left her wondering who might foot the bill.

“Hopefully Blackies has some insurance and if not, then the parents of the under-age ones should be paying at the very least.”

Those charged and who now faced fines should also be required to pay for the damage.

Goudie said Whangamatā was a traditionally popular New Year destination. Celebrations in recent years had been calmer since the riots of the early 2000s.

“I remember once rescuing a girl out of there at about midnight and it was like a war zone. You had to be really careful because of the amount of rubbish and glass on the road.

“But why Whangamatā? I’m not sure but right now we’ve got the biggest numbers ever in the district, with a huge number of them in Whangamatā itself.”

She said holiday-makers had swelled the district-wide population to upwards of 400,000.

“Every section is just full of cars and with that comes lot of people. Every household is just cram-packed full of people … I mean, let’s face it, Whangamatā is a fantastic place and people want to come here and it’s just so disappointing that these self-indulgent brats want to vandalise it.”

Goudie said it was a huge cost to rate payers, not to mention the cost to the cafe business from the theft and vandalism. She said once the police had cleared out the rioters, others returned and stole goods.

“We’re talking about a family’s livelihood, and all those employees at Blackies who rely on that income over the summer period.”

Goudie said she had spoken with police this morning.

“I have phone the area commander to offer our (council’s) full support and to assure him we take a zero-tolerance approach to this type of behaviour, and that we back them 100 percent.”

Dean Anderson said smaller disorder events continued about the township into the early hours. Most other beach locations experienced lower levels of disorder and offending with small numbers of arrests.

“The police would like to thank the many people who peacefully enjoyed their New Year’s celebrations and we wish them all the best for 2021.”

Busy night for St John around the country

Elsewhere in the country, hundreds of people were hospitalised and treated at New Year hotspots overnight, including for alcohol and drugs.

St John said it attended 363 incidents between 10pm and 3am, which is about double its usual workload.

The main trouble spots were Auckland, Whangamatā, Napier and Queenstown.

Assistant director of operations Stu Cockburn said people were treated for falling over and becoming unconscious, breathing problems, as well as drugs and alcohol.

Nearly 40 additional ambulances were operating last night, he said.

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