WE have a problem.
And no, it’s nothing to do with Covid-19, although it does appear that this particular problem has got worse this year.
It is the carnage that goes on downtown in both Queenstown and Wanaka, in the wee small hours when most are safely tucked up in our own beds.
Recently, police shared video footage with councillors generally taken between midnight and 4am.
The footage was from CCTV cameras and showed appalling acts of violence in our streets.
Councillors witnessed scenes of drug- and booze-fuelled idiots causing mindless mayhem.
It was not just a few incidents, either.
Councillors were shown 20-25 clips predominantly taken in the last six-to-eight months.
Most of you would be horrified to see what we witnessed.
Bottles being smashed over heads, heads being kicked in, people being held by others while they’re viciously attacked.
This is going on in our towns.
Our police are heavily engaged in trying to prevent this carnage but they cannot be everywhere all of the time.
To be clear, it’s not just out-of-towners (although much of it is), there are local youths involved as well.
So what’s the cause?
At the booze end, it’s the problem of young folk ‘‘pre-loading’’ and effectively getting themselves plastered before they go to town.
They arrive on the downtown streets already drunk and without their commonsense.
The other side is drugs.
Let’s not pretend that we don’t have a drug problem in the district.
It’s been there for a while but it’s got a lot worse in the past couple of years.
This is the result of a deliberate strategy by gangs to target what is generally perceived to be a lucrative market for their wares.
No, we don’t see gang members often wearing their traditional patches in our district — police report they are smarter than that and that they keep a low profile when plying their trade.
For me, the safety of residents and visitors to our towns is the paramount concern.
Additionally, though, at a time when many of our businesses are struggling, with only Kiwi travellers to rely on, there is the secondary and very real fear of the reputational damage that will be done to the district should we become known as a hot spot for alcohol- and drug-related violence.
To support our many friends and colleagues in the tourism industry, it’s so important that we are able to confidently promote our district as a safe and welcoming destination for all that wish to enjoy it.
My message to the community generally, but, in particular, parents of teenagers and young adults — this is your problem as much as it is the police’s.
If we don’t do something about this, sooner or later there will be fatalities — the violence is that bad.
This is an awkward truth that we all need to face.
Let’s do something about it.
For a start, council is building on its relationship with police and key stakeholders to find solutions.
We are immensely privileged to have a collaborative force who are eager to work together with all that this dangerous problem affects.
Along with police, council is meeting with hospitality business owners and community leaders to strategise ways of addressing the matter.
I say again, though, it is a community problem and we all need to get involved.
I’m wide open to good ideas on this serious issue.
Our young people and the reputation of our beautiful district are at risk.
Jim Boult is Queenstown’s mayor