Boozy fights: Is street fit for a Queen?

By Yvonne Tahana

Mayhem reigns a year after mayor promised firm action on drink problems.

Mr Brown's mayoral taskforce produced an action plan that included better policing of "pre-loading" carparks in the city. Photo / Janna Dixon
Mr Brown's mayoral taskforce produced an action plan that included better policing of "pre-loading" carparks in the city. Photo / Janna Dixon

A year after Auckland Mayor Len Brown promised to crack down on central city alcohol issues, booze-related assaults are "bog standard", fast food outlets have doubled their security and residents are being kept awake by the disorder.

Mr Brown's mayoral taskforce produced an action plan that included better policing of "pre-loading" carparks in the city, instant fines for breaching liquor hours, improved management of queues and more community patrols.

But police are still seeing drunken fights, often simultaneously in different places throughout the central business district. Multiple calls for help were received early yesterday morning after reports of a brawl involving 20 drunken youths on the corner of Queen and Customs Sts.

Auckland Central Senior Sergeant Jason Greenhalgh said although it may have looked like a brawl to onlookers, far fewer than 20 people were involved.

"I hate to say the word but it was pretty much bog standard sort of disorder and fighting, as in drunken sort of arguments that led to punch-ups, but no serious injuries, no serious damage."

Four arrests were made and three others needed hospital treatment, but police say the scene was actually typical of what officers saw most weekends in downtown Auckland.

While officers were dealing with the Queen St brawl, others were called to a reported assault at the Viaduct, which turned out to be a man who broke his leg after kicking a tree, and a fight outside a Burger King on Queen St that ended with a man being knocked out and a woman dislocating her shoulder.

"There were no assaults as such, just fights with willing participants," Mr Greenhalgh said.

"What I'm saying is with the city centre there was nothing out of context for a Saturday night."

Burger King assistant manager Prashant Mehta said the restaurant had increased weekend late-night security from one guard to two in recent months because of drunken revellers.

A fight was guaranteed each weekend, and late at night staff found there was little reasoning with those who had been drinking.

"It costs - we have to move the manpower from one area to another."

Staff at another business said they had got used to having to replace cracked or shattered windows caused by fighting on the street outside.

A spokesman for Auckland Mayor Len Brown said yesterday that the council would have a clearer idea of whether taskforce activities were making an impact once this year's crime figures were released and the taskforce had completed a survey on attitudes to safety in the central city.

Len Brown on Queen St

June 2012: "As Aucklanders, we own this street - it's the heart of our city - we have a right to expect the city centre to be safe, friendly, clean and exciting.''
September 2012: "Aucklanders and visitors alike should be able to have a safe and enjoyable experience experience in the city centre. I am confident that the measures we are taking are already showing results.''
December 2012: "The taskforce has been very effective in cleaning up drinking and drugs. The next step is general tidiness.
"I think Aucklanders will jump at the opportunity of being strongly focused on tidiness - with no litter or rubbish on the streets, so that Auckland is renowned for being clean, tidy and proud.
"You can't be the most liveable city in the world if you've got litter around the place.''

- NZ Herald

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