The arrival of the New Year was generally celebrated in the Far North without incident, but the bonhomie was not shared by one or two of Kaitaia's volunteer firefighters.

They were called out three times on Sunday night, to bonfires at Waiharara (6.45pm) and Pukepoto (9.30pm), the crew that attended the latter copping sufficient abuse from revellers to persuade the officer in charge that it would be best to back off.

"It was the right thing to do, but it gets up your nose when you're faced with this sort of crap," a brigade spokesman said.

"I don't think any real harm was done this time, but it's something that all volunteers seem to be facing more often these days."


The most serious incident was at Awanui, where fireworks, which according to bystanders had missed their intended target, a police car, set fire to long kikuyu adjacent to St Joseph's Church.

At one stage the flames seemed likely to threaten a house, but were contained within an area of about 500 square metres. Three appliances and the brigade's water tank were there for about two hours, one of the firefighters lamenting that "We deserve a New Year's Eve too."

Meanwhile, a mostly well-behaved and festive crowd saw in the New Year in Paihia, where a boost in police numbers and an earlier crackdown on public drinking were credited with a reduction in disorder and fewer arrests, although the crowd appeared to be smaller than the previous year's.

Tourists and families began lining the waterfront from Waitangi to the southern end of Paihia Beach early in the evening, waiting for the midnight fireworks display, while police officers, many of them from Auckland, were kept busy confiscating and tipping out alcohol.

Preparations for the festive season seemed to pay dividends at Ahipara too. Some of the residents might not have agreed, Acting Senior Sergeant Sarah Wihongi said, but generally behaviour, on and off two wheels, was better than in the past. Police and the community had joined forces to educate some of those who might have been tempted to misbehave, she said, and it seemed to have worked well.