Mount retailers shocked at move to axe beachfront New Year's Eve concerts

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Kiwi 10-piece B2KDA entertained the crowds at Mount Main Beach's New Years Eve celebrations last year.  Photo/file
Kiwi 10-piece B2KDA entertained the crowds at Mount Main Beach's New Years Eve celebrations last year. Photo/file

Mount Maunganui retailers are horrified that the council is looking to axe the traditional New Year's Eve beachfront concerts on Mount Main Beach.

Tauranga City Council will tomorrow decide on a recommendation to cease organising the event and to only run a ticket-admission youth concert at Baypark's ASB Arena.

The report to the ''extraordinary'' council meeting followed confidential briefings to councillors that have stressed police safety concerns with continuing to run the concerts.

Mount Mainstreet board chairwoman Jane Debenham responded that retailers were ''horrified'' by the move.

Everybody gravitated to the beach on New Year's Eve and she feared the consequences when thousands of young people who had been drinking too much had nothing to do. There was a risk that they would wander over to the Mount downtown shops and cause damage.

''To me, it is asking for more trouble for the police.''

Mrs Debenham said the council was rushing it through without consulting to find out how cancelling the event would impact on retailers. ''It should have been a common courtesy.''

Having stages and bands in an enclosed area made it easier to control, but now they were looking to throw it wide open again.

Council's city transformation manager Jaine Lovell-Gadd has recommended the option of having no organised event at Main Beach, a fireworks display at The Domain and a youth event at ASB Arena. Council would also improve public safety and support police with emergency response services.

''The New Year's Eve event is the highest risk event in Tauranga,'' she said.

Ms Lovell-Gadd said the council and police had managed this night, with associated risks and costs, for well over a decade and were still to find a sustainable solution.

The alternative option to be considered tomorrow was to continue holding an event on Mount Main Beach, along with CBD fireworks and a youth event at ASB Arena. This would cost the council $784,000-$505,0000 more than what the council budgeted for the 2016-17 year. Dropping the Main Beach event would save $252,000.

Her report outlined how there were more younger people at the last New Year's Eve event than previous years, with police reporting an increase in public disorder and aggression caused by higher levels of intoxication.

''Police dealt with serious assaults regularly over the night. There were reports of groups of men taking advantage of vulnerable females. They also reported that vulnerable men were knocked to the ground.

''Youth groups were also present at the event and 43 arrests were reported. It is not necessarily the amount of offending but the serious nature of offending that concerns police. It is anticipated that similar issues with similar groups may arise again.

''Police understand that other planned disorder and retribution could be a risk for any 2016-17 organised event,'' the report said.

The council has engaged consultant Calum Nicholson, a specialist in managing crowd movements for major events. It then called in Sport New Zealand's events specialist John Dawson who said that having no organised event had the potential to increase the risk of public disorder, at least in the short term.

''However they appreciate that the long-term plan to change perceptions and actions will likely happen sooner if the no organised event option was enacted,'' the report said.

Ms Lovell-Gadd said that unless costs were able to be contained or reduced, the investment required by the council for the event became difficult to support.

Resource consent was also required to stage the fireworks display on Mt Drury. Initial consultation with key stakeholders had raised concerns and there was a ''high chance'' that there would be no fireworks at the Mount.

Mayor Stuart Crosby said that although the event had been successfully managed for many years after the 2001 riot, putting 30,000 people into one area that included large numbers of intoxicated young people was a threat to public safety.

''I have been to every one since 2002 and every year the atmosphere gets more and more risky ... we can't promote that any further. I am saddened that we have to take this action but public safety comes first,'' he said.

The message would be put out around New Zealand that there would be no point in people coming to the Mount to cause trouble on New Year's Eve, Mr Crosby said.

Former Bay of Plenty Motel Association president Bruce Rutherford said of their members, only four motels were showing availability on December 31. The rooms available would hold about 38 people across the different motels in Tauranga.

Despite this Mr Rutherford said people did not generally choose to holiday in Mount Maunganui specifically for the New Year's Eve festivities.

Downsides of Mount Main Beach as a major New Year' Eve destination
- Larger crowds to manage
- High risks of public disorder and safety
- Increased legal liability on council
- High costs and high levels of resourcing.

We asked the Tauranga City mayoral candidates if they supported canning the council-run New Year's event at Mount Main Beach.

Hori Leaming: I support the events as long as they are well run and safe because they offer a vibe to our city, as well being as bringing in money and fun.

Steve Morris: Yes, due to changes in the Health and Safety Act the cost of over $750,000 is excessive for one night a year. It's better to spread the funds over the entire year.

Kelvin Clout: I support the recommendation that Council does not organise the event. We have received extensive advice from the police, paramedics and professional event organisers. The risks to public safety are heightened with an event which concentrates an alcohol-fuelled crowd on a beach which is very difficult to manage. Even without an organised event our investment in security measures is already well exceeding our budget.

Larry Baldock: I always take recommendations made by police to council seriously. They are our partners in managing the safety of our community. Since they are expressing concerns about the potential risks in holding the event, and also with the high increase in the budget that ratepayers would be asked to meet this year I think the New Years Event definitely needs review.

Murray Guy: I do not support the complete canning of the New Year's Eve tradition of council-organised events on Mount Main Beach. However, I do believe sponsorship opportunities are not maximised to reduce the huge cost to the ratepayer. I would encourage celebrations, on both sides of the harbour, at ASB Baypark, with events managed and owned by the private sector, supported by Tauranga City Council but not necessarily subsidised by the ratepayer. The present level of ratepayer funding has become excessive and on occasion ratepayer-funded events are undermining private sector self-funded events.

Greg Brownless: Council began organising New Years Eve entertainment at the Mount following problems in the early 2000s. Council was told that this was the best way to manage behaviour. Now we seem to be being told that due to the Health & Safety or some such Act, the best way is not to provide entertainment. It is sad that these days instead of holding criminal thugs to account, some in society seek to blame the organisers of events. Partly because of this blame game, what could be a nice celebration is at risk of cancellation. It is also concerning that the cost of the event has grown to a ridiculous amount. I'd prefer that the police and courts cracked down severely on troublemakers and thugs, but for the decision on whether to organise entertainment at New Year I would seek and go with the advice of the police.

Max Mason: Mount Maunganui is one of the country's top holiday destinations because it is safe and family friendly. Our reputation is important to our visitor economy and we must protect that reputation. If the Main Beach New Year's Eve celebration is cancelled the police and council have to ask what other forms of disorder are likely to occur. Ultimately this is a whole-of-community problem with too much disorderly behaviour being tolerated in the past. In situations like this the police should have more powers to take a tough line. To retain the family friendly aspect there should be an early fireworks event for families, and a controlled youth event at ASB Arena.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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