Booze ban helps keep lid on trouble
Returning to the Motueka police station from Kaiteriteri, Sergeant Rob Crawford is behind a station wagon with smoke pouring from the back tyres.
"Uh-oh, that car's about to burst into flames" says the 48-year-old police officer. He flicks on his flashing lights and the station wagon pulls over.
After chatting with the young woman at the wheel, Mr Crawford returns to his car. The driver, a foreign tourist, had been driving with the handbrake on and was "very grateful" to have been pulled over, he says.
Not all his stops are welcomed. As the officer in charge of the Motueka station, Mr Crawford has seen it all during the 14 years he has been stationed in the busy summer destination.
New Year's Eve at Kaiteriteri used to be "bordering on riots", he recalls.
A decade ago he helped arrest about 75 people there and "that was not unusual for those days", he says.
But he has seen Kaiteriteri become much more of a family destination over the last half dozen years and this New Year's Eve at Kaiteriteri there was no trouble at all, he says.
"You'll always have the clowns and the idiots, but I think they know that kind of behaviour will not be tolerated."
He attributes part of the change to the expanded liquor ban put in place around Motuka and Kaiteriteri by the Tasman District Council, at the request of the police.
He starts his planning for summer in August, and from December 26, when the Kaiteriteri campground reaches capacity, a two-officer incident car is based at Kaiteriteri on both the 10am to 6pm day shift and the 6pm to 2am night shift.
"Their job is to be very visible. Education is a huge issue on the liquor ban."
Explaining that "we're not out there to be the fun police", Mr Crawford says that if people are seen drinking in the liquor ban area, officers will usually explain the ban and then warn that if people don't comply, they can be fined. He says that alcohol is the "primary driver of crime over Christmas and New Year in our area".
The liquor ban's expansion to include parts of Riwaka has also put an end to most of the preloading and post-concert parties which used to be the cause of trouble near the Riwaka Hotel concerts.
He patrolled several of the shows, including Shihad on New Year's Eve, when he was running a six-person police safety unit, and was very happy with how they went.
Only five people were removed from the shows for "very minor alcohol-fuelled offending", and all of them were released with warnings.
"This summer has been one of the quietest I can remember in terms of offending", he says.
As well as the busy campgrounds and Riwaka shows, his other areas of concern are dance parties held in the bush.
"We've had people go missing from them. We've had assaults, sexual offences and general disorder. And on the road-policing side, increased traffic volumes on roads and in town.
"All that has to be taken into account in planning. You can't just put people out there and expect them to cope. You've got to have a plan."
Despite the extra work, Mr Crawford says he enjoys the summer.
"We can be more community oriented in terms of meeting people. You can sit and have a joke and a yarn with people and, by that, be seen and help educate them. But as a supervisor, you're always anxious, waiting for something to happen and hoping your planning is up to it.
"It's become apparent this summer, especially up north, that policing is a dangerous job and we're lucky that our community is behind us. But in society as a whole, there is a minority who wouldn't think twice about assaulting a police officer."
When he gets his chance, Mr Crawford will "get out of town" for a bit of hunting, fishing or diving. "Anywhere there are no people and no phone coverage."
The Nelson Mail