Otorohanga guard labels Maccas a Mecca for trouble

By Nikki Preston

Otorohanga's night security guard says McDonald's has become the "breeding place for trouble" with teenagers using the excuse of getting a burger as reason to gather there in the early hours of the morning.

Pearl Security guard Denis Kaumoana said people gathered at McDonald's after the pubs closed in the early hours of the morning and fights broke out.

Mr Kaumoana said the problem had escalated since the 24-hour McDonald's opened in 2009 because it gave teenagers an excuse for hanging around the town at all hours. McDonald's said its restaurants did not make any difference to the levels of trouble.

"Since McDonald's has come to town it is always a breeding place for trouble - fights, disorder, assaults and just congregation of trouble-makers after the water holes close down," Mr Kaumoana said.

"A lot of the ones up to no good, if you pull them up in the street and say to them what are you doing out this hour of the night - they always say we are going to McDonald's.

"But that's just an excuse to be roaming around, eyeing things up, looking for something to smash. Our town is not too bad but it does happen."

Before McDonald's opened, the children aged between 10 and 15 would go home when he approached them, he said.

Otorohanga police Constable Ben Parsonage said people did gather at McDonald's after the pubs closed but police worked with McDonald's staff and the council to keep the problem under control.

"There was really nowhere for them to go and now there is. It's just one of those things. Anywhere there's been people drinking there is the prospect of a bit of trouble but it's actually quite good really."

He said the problems were seasonal and increased over the school holidays.

Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams said the opening of McDonald's was a "double-edged sword". While it had provided an after-hours gathering place for people and had increased the amount of litter dumped on the street, he said it had also contributed to the town's economic development by employing 60 full-time and part-time staff.

Neither the police nor McDonald's had raised any concerns with him.

A McDonald's spokesman said Otorohanga's issues were no worse than anywhere else in the country and anti-social behaviour happened in small towns with or without a McDonald's.

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