Christel Yardley / Tips
Thousands of teenagers gathered in Williamson Park in Whangamatā to celebrate the New Year.
Fifteen people were arrested in Whangāmata on New Year’s Eve as thousands of drunken teenagers crowded into a municipality-owned park to bring 2022.
The teens began to congregate at Williamson Park from 10 p.m. and were quickly surrounded by police, who were stationed at every corner of the park.
There was a drinking ban and no entertainment in the dimly lit field, just a handful of teenagers wearing loudspeakers and blaring music.
Officers made 15 arrests and issued 114 offense notices, according to a police statement.
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Last year, the roof of the Blackies Café in Williamson Park was smashed and broken into in a teenage riot, causing damage worth $ 60,000. This year, police have taken a zero tolerance approach.
Alcohol was banned in the council-owned park, and police could be seen pouring drinks and arresting anyone carrying alcohol.
The teens were crowded around the cafe and spilled onto Lowe St, Esplanade Dr and the beach.
Maori guards, security guards and police worked together to manage the crowds and circled the park to keep an eye out for the teenagers. Security was stationed at the cafe to protect the building.
A police officer at the scene said the plan was to let the teens have fun and bring in the New Year, then push them back onto the streets and send them home.
The officer said the alcohol ban meant that as the night wore on, the teens sobered up.
As midnight rolled around, the crowd counted down and clapped, hands up, to celebrate the New Year.
Many teens scattered after the countdown, but a few hundred lingered.
At 12:30 am, security guards walked into the crowd in line to push them out of the park, followed by police.
The canine squad and riot gear were on hand in case things started to heat up, an officer said.
Two lines of seven officers marched in formation down the street and managed to push the teenagers out of the park.
They spread on the roads and returned home in various directions.
St John, with the help of the Thames-Coromandel District Council, set up a safe zone at Whangamatā War Memorial Hall to care for teenagers who needed help.
“This is a safe area for those who are intoxicated or need a safe environment until their parents arrive,” said St John Hauraki Territory Director John Armitt.
“We don’t want young people to be intoxicated and then in a position where they could be assaulted.”
St John and the police patrolled the town and rounded up those in need of help and took them to the lobby.
Four teenagers were treated on New Years Eve, which was significantly lower than the 15 people last year.
“We are very happy with the downward trend. It is an excellent reflection of the combined efforts of all departments.
Paramedics were trained to monitor and care for them, and gave them fluids or medication if needed.
It was a long drive to Waikato Hospital for the teens who only needed a few hours of care.
Armitt said the safe zone has helped reduce pressure on resources.
“It’s a big night for us. But it’s just about protecting people.