Boozed-up brawlers given out

BOWLED OVER: Kane Steward plays in-house cricket at Steele Park but is concerned at the number of badly behaved drunks at the park.
BOWLED OVER: Kane Steward plays in-house cricket at Steele Park but is concerned at the number of badly behaved drunks at the park.

There's always tension on the field when the Slack Caps play social cricket at Steele Park in Hamilton East.

It's hard to keep their eyes on the ball with drunks, glue sniffers, fights and other anti-social behaviour on the sidelines.

There's been a co-ordinated crusade against that "undesirable element" in recent times, but it goes on. Daily.

Slack Caps player Kane Steward played there on Wednesday night and witnessed a drunken fight under the old oak trees in the southwest corner.

"It was a bit unnerving," he said. "Especially while you're concentrating on the cricket and trying to have a good time with your mates."

When playing on one of Steele's two pitches, his team has developed a watch system to ensure none of their gear is stolen. None has to date. Mr Steward thinks a police presence could be increased to curb the problem. However, he doesn't want to see the liquor ban extended beyond 10pm till 6am as it would put an end to a quiet beer after a cricket match.

Next to Steele is The Cook cafe and bar. Owner-operator Chris Rollitt is also against the 24/7 liquor ban option, yet he wants to see the "derros" gone for good.

Recent police efforts have helped, he says, but, at 2.30pm on a hot Thursday, both picnic tables on the park's Wellington St edge are full - booze is on the menu.

Jordan Wawatai is there with his partner, their 2-year-old, a flatmate and a neighbour.

They all live across the street at the No 36 block of flats.

At Mr Wawatai's feet is an 18 box of 440ml Ranfurly Draught and a 15 box of Lion Red stubbies. They've been there since 12.30pm; Mr Wawatai says it's his first time drinking there.

He's all for a 24/7 liquor ban, he says, because he's witnessed some ugly scenes at Steele.

"I've seen fights. I've seen glue sniffing. I've seen drugs. I've seen it all over here, mate.

"People have come over to the flats and asked to smoke P [methamphetamine] at the back of the house.

"Last week we had patched gang members drinking at the park. My daughter was saying, ‘I want to swing! I want to swing!' I was like, no, not with those people over there."

City council parks and open spaces manager Sally Sheedy says they are aware of some issues involving a group of people regularly congregating at Steele Park and they've worked closely with Hamilton Police to address it.

"It's important to keep in mind this is a public park - so we cannot stop this group of people meeting there. However, if they are involved in criminal or anti-social behaviour, members of the public should contact police."

Waikato Times