Concerns over alcohol-fuelled violence as rebuild workers move into Kaikoura

NCTIR workers will help rebuild State Highway 1 and the main north railway line.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

NCTIR workers will help rebuild State Highway 1 and the main north railway line.

Officials are concerned alcohol-fuelled violence and sexual disease consultations will surge in Kaikoura as hundreds of rebuild workers descend on the district.

Police, the Kaikoura District Council and Community and Public Health have set up a group to monitor the earthquake-hit town's bars and off-licences, while night clinics and random drug tests are planned for workers.

Three hundred North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) Alliance workers – who will help with the estimated $2 billion rebuild of State Highway 1 and the main north railway line – will arrive at a new accommodation camp on Ludstone Rd this month.

Mayor Winston Gray, left, says there was minor alcohol-related violent incidents in Kaikoura early in the town's recovery.
JOHN KIRK-ANDERSON/FAIRFAX NZ

Mayor Winston Gray, left, says there was minor alcohol-related violent incidents in Kaikoura early in the town's recovery.

The facility has been likened to those used in Australian mining camps.

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The concerns were raised during a combined Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) committee meeting earlier this month.

This slip at Kahutara Bridge, photographed on March 9, is one of several causing issues on State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura.
NZTA/SUPPLIED

This slip at Kahutara Bridge, photographed on March 9, is one of several causing issues on State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura.

"Challenges" for Kaikoura included concerns about increases in violence due to alcohol consumption in the township, the mental health of the workforce, and increases in GP sexual health consultations.

In Christchurch, the number of confirmed cases and tests for sexual diseases increased following an influx of workers after the February 2011 earthquake.

At Thursday's CDHB meeting, board member Anna Crighton said there "could be some challenges arising" in Kaikoura, prompting acting chairman Mark Solomon to say "there already is".

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton says NCTIR's drug and alcohol testing programme is extensive.
GEORGE HEARD/FAIRFAX NZ

NZTA earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton says NCTIR's drug and alcohol testing programme is extensive.

Kaikoura Mayor Winston Gray knew of the concerns about increased alcohol-related violence as the workers moved in.

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"They were highlighted early through our recovery team because . . . those things do happen if you bring in a work camp to a degree," he said.

There had been some minor alcohol-related violent incidents early in Kaikoura's post-quake recovery.

"We heard of incidents very early on.

"It's strange to say, but we need some more bars in town, now how weird is that? Because we've lost half a dozen outlets . . . and there was some issues.

"I think it's OK, but the thing's going to ramp up and it's something we're going to have to watch," Gray said.

NCTIR work is estimated to cost $2 billion.
ALDEN WILLIAMS/FAIRFAX NZ

NCTIR work is estimated to cost $2 billion.

Marlborough area prevention manager Senior Sergeant Peter Payne said calls to police were down nearly 50 per cent this financial year and there had not been any increase in alcohol-related offending.

Instances of family violence in the town had increased by 10 per cent though.

"What we do is work in closely with NCTIR, the organisation that are building the camp and having the workers stay there," Payne said.

"I don't think there's going to be a huge issue – there's potential don't get me wrong – but I don't think there will be.

"I can't say there's going to be, I can't say there's not; at this stage we're not seeing it and if it was to happen we'll put some things in place."

NZ Transport Agency earthquake recovery manager Steve Mutton said the expectations of the workers were made "very clear".

"We have a very clear expectation of our guys that you're going to make a positive contribution to not only New Zealand, but the region, but also Kaikoura area itself," he said.

There was an alcohol ban in communal areas of the facility.

"In terms of our project, we have drug and alcohol testing at pre-employment. We also have it for just cause, which means that if there's an incident we're allowed to do alcohol and drug testing, but we also have random drug and alcohol testing in place for all our workers," Mutton said.

CDHB acting chief executive Mary Gordon said NCTIR indicated it would support the funding of an evening clinic for workers to ensure access to health care.

"Anyone new to the area, especially those with chronic health conditions, have also been encouraged to enrol with Kaikoura Health.

"In addition to this, work is progressing to develop an alcohol monitoring programme. This work involves Canterbury DHB and Pegasus Health," she said.

 - Stuff

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