Street violence ‘unsurprising’

Outgoing Queenstown mayor Jim Boult wants to see action on street violence, before he steps down in October.

Boult says council staff are looking at funding opportunities to establish a ‘Take 10’ area in town, which would provide a safe space and ‘‘mobile vehicle of some description’’ for people to go if they felt threatened, vulnerable or had been affected by drugs and alcohol, ‘‘to go and take a bit of time out.’’

The move’s come from work by the mayoral taskforce on street violence, established by Boult in 2020, after he was shown a five-minute compilation video of violence captured by CCTV footage around town.

The ‘Take 10’ initiative, Boult says, has been successful in other parts of New Zealand, particularly Wellington, and he wants to have it set up in Queenstown for this summer.

Before the end of his term, he wants to ‘‘ensure’’ the initiative moves forward, and hopes the taskforce will continue once he’s gone.

‘‘My strong recommendation [to the next mayor] is that [the taskforce] does carry on until it’s no longer needed, and if it’s no longer needed, then we’ve been successful.’’

Other work around the issue has included welcoming the Know Your Stuff crew to town, who test substances and provide harm reduction advice around what they find, as well as work with the police to light up darker areas of town, ‘‘where bad things happen at night,’’ Boult

‘‘Certainly it’s a live issue for us … it sort of went off the boil a little bit because the problem wasn’t around, but certainly we see it coming back.’’

Anecdotally, Queenstown police say since town’s been busier, they’re dealing with more street violence.

‘‘I think it’s safe to say that it’s not unexpected,’’ Otago Lakes Central Area response manager senior sergeant Glenn Wilkinson says.

‘Not surprising’: Senior sergeant Glenn Wilkinson

‘‘Town has got busier with more visitors and the borders opening … and when you throw alcohol into the mix there, then you’re always going to get an increase in disorder, which includes street assaults.’’

But Wilkinson says there doesn’t seem to be an obvious group causing issues.

‘‘It’s quite a mixture of locals and visitors … and they’re all quite capable of drinking too much and getting out of hand.’’

An incident last month, covered by Ten 7 Aotearoa, involved a man being knocked unconscious after being dealt a coward’s punch by a complete stranger.

Police are understood to still be looking for the alleged offender.

‘‘One of the biggest worries for us is that situation where someone gets punched, they fall over and crack their head on the concrete and either die or end up with some very long term, traumatic brain injuries,’’ Wilkinson says.

‘‘A single punch can have a lifetime of consequences for the person who’s [been] punched, and also for the person who’s [dealt] the punch.’’

For prevention, local police have built relationships with bar operators to monitor intoxication levels, regularly patrol town on busy nights and also are encouraging people to look out for their mates.

‘‘If you have a friend who’s starting to look [like] they’re getting a bit wound up and wanting to fight, take them away from the situation.

‘‘Avoid these things before they actually start,’’ Wilkinson says.

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