Haven for hard partiers

By Karen Mackenzie

Trial project hopes to take pressure off hospitals and police.

The downtown Safe Zone is a temporary shelter for drunk or injured party-goers. Photo / Neville Marriner
The downtown Safe Zone is a temporary shelter for drunk or injured party-goers. Photo / Neville Marriner

Out-of-control revellers in Auckland are being offered a temporary shelter to calm down and have medical attention.

The "safe house" project is a four-week trial by ACC, police, the Auckland Council, Christian group Red Frog and St John, running downtown on Friday and Saturday nights.

St John paramedic and Safe Zone project leader Mitch Mullooly said: "The safe house aims to cut down unnecessary hospital admissions by dealing with people on the spot."

Wellington also has a safe house in Courtenay Place. "Wellington's a bit different to us," Mullooly said. "The Wellington nightlife is all based around Courtenay Place, whereas Auckland is so widespread but I think we're in a good position."

The Herald on Sunday visited the new Auckland safe house just before midnight on a recent Friday. Groups of young people were wandering, staggering, even skipping around.

People streamed by looking for a bus timetable, a glass of water, help locating a friend, to deliver a drunken rant or to get the popular jellied frog lollies Red Frog hand out.

Red Frog employee Ollie Nelson, 22, said: "We're here to hold the vomit bag, the St John guys don't need to do that."

By 12.15am a very pale-looking Japanese student was sitting outside the safe house. He'd been in the country for a month. According to his friends he'd had 12 beers in two hours. A Red Frog volunteer held the bag for him. Once the boy finished throwing up and was checked by a paramedic, a taxi was called to take him home.

Next, a young women's knee was bleeding and needed bandaging. Her claim of tripping over a hedgehog seemed unlikely - more likely it was the high heels and alcohol.

The paramedics fixed her up, she gave them a hug and continued to the next bar. More girls staggered by, wrapped in hazard tape from a construction site, and called out, "How long are you open for?" The answer was until 6am.

Next, the police pulled up to drop off a middle-aged woman, intoxicated and disorientated. Without the safe house she would have been taken to a police cell for the night. The paramedics sat her down, gave her a glass of water and helped her call her partner. All went well until she got upset and called them "disgusting Catholics".

Word of the safe house has been getting around. Tuk-tuk driver Sam Casey, 22, said: "Auckland is in dire need of this," as a fight between two young males broke out behind him.

Police spokesman John Takerei said the safe house was an attempt to use limited resources wisely.

- Herald on Sunday

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