A gathering of hundreds of "boy racers" was interrupted by a police raid in the Western Bay, impounding 12 cars and charging 16 people.
About 200 people who gathered in Paengaroa at the weekend to race modified cars and perform burnouts were targeted in the raid.
A total of 150 cars were involved in the Saturday night meet up, involving drivers from South Auckland, Waikato and the Western Bay. The Paengaroa location was the latest in a string of local spots impacted by boy racer gatherings, police say.
Acting head of Western Bay of Plenty road policing Sergeant Wayne Hunter said the operation was the "biggest boy racer raid" they had seen in years and he was pleased with the results.
Twelve cars were impounded, seven people charged with sustained loss of traction, three charged with racing (unnecessary exhibition of speed), three with drink driving (excess breath alcohol), two with driving while suspended, and one with driving while forbidden.
A total of 43 fines were also issued for various vehicle or driving infringements.
"They've been doing it for a long time but it has been getting worse," Hunter said.
Similar gatherings have been held in the lower Kaimais, Wairoa Bridge area, Oropi, and Ohauiti.
"They [boy racers] are doing a lot of damage . . . causing damage to the roads, to people's properties. When residents have gone to confront them, they've been met with aggression," Hunter said.
On another occasion, a group gathered near the Oropi community hall where a function was being held. When people from the function approached the gathering to ask them to move on, "there was an altercation", Hunter said.
"One hundred and fifty cars, that's a lot of cars to have on a little road."
Hunter said police have been tracking a group of boy racers through a Facebook page, which has since been deleted.
Eighteen officers, including some from Waikato, and staff from the New Zealand Transport Agency were involved in Saturday night's raid.
As the group gathered on Saturday, police blocked off the exits with their cars and picked off offending cars and their drivers as the group attempted to leave. Transport agency staff helped by searching for illegal modifications.
"We haven't done something like this for a while and we will do more if we need to," Hunter said.
"Our community has to feel safe and if they don't, it's our duty to do whatever we can to make them feel safe again. That's why we did this."
Te Puke/Maketu ward councillor John Scrimgeour said in the past, large groups of boy racers that gathered in the Paengaroa area had left plenty of damage behind.
"I have seen the evidence the morning after, with broken signs, letterboxes and posts."
Mr Scrimgeour has heard of some Paengaroa gatherings involving more than 200 people.
Fellow ward councillor Kevin Marsh said: "Yes, there are issues, and all parties are working towards the best options to address the problem".
Te Puke's Keith Merritt, who organises the unique car display at the local A&P Show, said not all car enthusiasts were boy racers and it would be unfair to assume so.
"People have only got to go to one of those car shows to see the work that goes into these cars . . . They are not necessarily the young ones who are doing this," he said.
While Merritt appreciated the shared love of a noisy engine or travelling fast, damaging property at big gatherings was not on and taxes could be better spent elsewhere than fixing damage, he said.
A 2007 Tauranga City bylaw banned boy racer cars from industrial areas. In 2010, about 150 vehicles at six locations were targeted by police. Eighteen were ordered off the road and 37 people were identified for possible fines.
By the numbers
Of the 837 traffic and vehicle offences recorded by police in the Western Bay from July 2017 to February 2018, most offenders were aged 20 to 24 years old and 78 per cent of the total were male.
Illegal street racing - the penalties
Illegal street racing and the anti-social use of vehicles are tackled by measures in the Land Transport (Enforcement Powers) Amendment Act 2009. The 2009 changes strengthened existing laws and ensured that penalties became appropriate to prevent repeat offending.
Source - New Zealand Police