Drivers will be stopped, tested: Police

By Roger Moroney

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Hawke's Bay revellers heading for the Rhythm and Vines festival in Gisborne next weekend can expect to be pulled over and breath-tested as they arrive near the city. Police are staging a massive crack-down on drink-driving and pre-loading.

Police said checkpoints will be set up at roads on "the outskirts" leading into the city from the south and the north and will continue through the festival which runs between December 29 and 31.

In its tenth year, the festival, which is staged at the Waiohika Estate Winery a few kilometres out of the city, regularly draws a large number of people from Hawke's Bay, and they can expect to be met by the police as they arrive in the area.

"All traffic will be stopped," Tairawhiti Area Commander Inspector Sam Aberahama said.

He said the initiative was aimed at stopping people pre-loading before they got to the festival.

"Every year we come across a number of people who arrive at the festival drunk and they may well have driven in that state for some time. There are two issues here - they can cause mayhem when they arrive at the festival, but more importantly, they have been driving drunk, often for some hours, and they are putting other road-users at risk."

Mr Aberahama said police would be "coming down hard" on drink-driving, adding that the increased presence around the city and at the festival meant the chances of being stopped were very high.

"We will have a zero tolerance approach to this (drink-driving) and any alcohol-related crime for that matter. So if you're thinking of doing it our message is very simple - don't."

Police are also urging festival-goers to take responsibility for their own property and their personal safety. Every year there are a large number of thefts reported - including jewellery, clothing, cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices.

"If it's valuable and you don't want to lose it, don't bring it," Mr Aberahama said. "If you must bring it, make sure it is kept safe and hidden out of general view."

He added that each year police also dealt with assaults and disorder at the festival, usually sparked by too much alcohol. "It is up to everyone to keep themselves and their friends safe and not to overdo it."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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