Drinking at Whangarei park

By Nikolai Smith

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Whangarei police are monitoring a central city park after concerns from neighbouring businesses and residents about groups of people drinking there throughout the day.

Residents and workers close to Carruth Park on Maunu Road have raised concerns about people drinking in the park, with some saying they are too scared to walk through the area.

"They've often got brown paper bags with alcohol. Every time we go out and do the banking they're there," said a person who works close to the park but wishes to remain anonymous.

It has been an issue for at least three years, but residents and workers claim it has escalated since Whangarei Liquor Centre opened in November on Maunu Road, right beside the park.

However, the liquor store owner, who does not want to be named, disagrees with suggestions that his store is contributing to the problem and says they are getting their alcohol elsewhere.

"I don't like people drinking there. We don't serve these people. We've known the people [drinking in the park] and we say 'sorry buddy, we can't serve you'.

We've rung the police and told them," he said.

He has educated his staff about the problem and told them not to serve people they know hang out in the park.

Residents and those working near the park claim the issue has rendered the park useless to others, with groups of up to 20 people drinking there at a time.

A 20-year resident of First Ave, who lives close to the park and wishes to remain anonymous agrees that the liquor store is fuelling people drinking in the park.

However, police say the liquor shop is not encouraging alcohol consumption in the park.

A man and woman drinking in the park, who both wish to remain anonymous, say Whangarei Liquor Centre tries not to sell liquor to people who drink in the park.

"He doesn't sell liquor to anyone who's in the park. It's not fair," the man said.

The woman said the liquor shop sold her six single Park Lane drinks on Friday. However, on Sunday, "I tried to buy a 12 pack of Black Ice, but he didn't serve me and accused me of selling [alcohol] to underage. Last year, the police stopped and had a chat but didn't move us on," she said.

The man said when he was drinking at the Rose Gardens on Water St last year, where the liquor ban is in place, he was told to move on to Carruth Park by a police officer.

"Heaps of people walk through but don't have any problems. Put some more tables there, if the complaint is taking up the tables," said the man.

Northland District Police spokesperson Sarah Kennett said the liquor store has given police an undertaking that they are not supplying alcohol to the people drinking in the park.

"The store has been very obliging to our Alcohol Harm Reduction Officer's request to remove most of the advertising material from in front of the premises and have engaged with the promotion of health resources to their patrons. If they are not committing any disorder offences then they are lawfully entitled to remain in the public space," said Ms Kennett.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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