Policing and fuel costs help curb boy racing

By Sam Boyer

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Boy racers appear to have taken a back seat on Bay of Plenty roads.

In the wake of the boy racer council bylaw introduced in 2007 and a strong police crack-down, burn-outs and street races have largely died out in the Western Bay of Plenty.

Tauranga City Council transport operations manager Martin Parkes said the large groups that used to terrorise communities and wreck the roads had gone, and only small remnants of the petrol-fuelled counter-culture remained.

"We used to get the big gatherings ... [but] we don't get that anymore. We used to be called certainly every weekend, sometimes two or three times a weekend. It was costing council a lot of dollars to clean up the mess [they left behind]," he said.

Council staff would clean broken bottles and rubbish from roads regularly during weekends, as well as having to repair street surfaces damaged by spilled diesel - poured out by boy racers to make burn-outs easier.

"That's gone away, we don't get those calls anymore with regard to road surfaces.

And the levels of glass being left behind, and broken glass, associated with [boy racing] ... that's almost gone," he said.

Nationally, the boy racer problem has diminished. Former hotbeds of activity have seen marked drops in boy racer gatherings and prosecutions.

And while isolated incidents continue to create unwelcome headlines, Tauranga has seen considerably less action.

Last month, hundred-car convoys descended on the Wairarapa, heading over from Wellington to race and joyride. In January Aucklander Shaun FitzPatrick, 22, died when his souped-up car was completely crushed in a high-speed smash, allegedly T-boned by a boy racer aged just 15. In Nelson last week, 12 cars were seized in a police crack-down on dangerous driving.

But Senior Sergeant Ian Campion, the officer in charge of road policing in the Western Bay of Plenty, said the Tauranga City Council bylaw and heavy policing, combined with higher petrol prices, had seen the numbers of street hoons drop, and large-scale incidents were now uncommon.

"It's been less of a problem for about 12 months now," he said.

Though there were still minor problem spots - around the Takitimu Dr section of road near the Lakes subdivision and on Roxanne Place at the end of Poike Rd - the gatherings and behaviour were not as bad as they once were in the region.

"The issues of four or five years ago have disappeared. There's [still] the odd one-off one-vehicle incident, but apart from that the issue has disappeared," he said.

Anne Michel, from InRoads, the roading managers for the Western Bay council and NZTA, said she too had noticed a decline in numbers.

"I don't think we're seeing groups of boy racers [anymore]. I think they are getting fewer and fewer. I don't think they're congregating," she said.

"Maybe they've grown up."

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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