Liquor ban would have quelled trouble, say police

A liquor ban on the main road at Oakura would have prevented the main source of trouble caused by Taranaki's New Year's Eve revellers, police say.

New Plymouth police made 18 arrests between 10pm on December 31 and 6am yesterday.

Almost all were alcohol related and the largest cluster of disturbances was in Oakura. Police there made several arrests for fighting and disorderly behaviour outside the Butlers Reef bar, where popular bands Katchafire and Kora had attracted a large crowd.

Senior Sergeant Thomas McIntyre said much of the problem was people drinking outside the bar, but police were powerless to do anything because no liquor ban was in place for that part of Oakura.

"For some reason some of the people going there wanted to have a fight. They weren't in a good space to enjoy a good night. I really do believe if a liquor ban was there we would have been able to deal with any issues early," Mr McIntyre said. Some of the fights started in the bar and then continued outside when the patrons were ejected.

The seaside town has a long history of New Year's Eve hassles but the problem has largely been under control for the past 20 years with a temporary liquor ban placed on the beach and much of the town.

However, there has never been a reason to stretch the ban to the main street.

Butlers Reef part owner Kymon Hill said it was likely extending the ban to the areas around the bar would have helped prevent the buildup of people drinking outside, but there had been no time to put one in place before the concert.

"We hadn't intended to have a concert on New Year's Eve. We were only asked three weeks prior by the promoter . . . It was a brilliant opportunity and we took it. I've looked into liquor bans in the past and it's quite complicated. We couldn't have got one in the timeframe we needed it," he said.

He also questioned whether Oakura residents would be amenable to an extension of a ban that already covered much of the town.

About 2000 people attended the concert, which sold out on New Year's Eve morning. Mr Hill said many people appeared to have come to Oakura in the hope of securing a door sale.

"I was really, really glad the police were there in quite high numbers. They did an outstanding job."

Extensive temporary liquor bans came into force throughout Taranaki on New Year's Eve. These include most beaches and town CBDs.

Taranaki Daily News