"A noticeable drop" in antisocial behaviour and crime in the Rotorua CBD is being applauded by the Rotorua Lakes Council and police, but others say it's too soon to celebrate.

A month ago the two organisations jointly launched a central city summer safety campaign, after complaints from businesses, and police survey results showing many people felt unsafe in the inner city at night.

Last week, Rotorua Police area commander Inspector Anaru Pewhairangi said, so far, only a few arrests had been made, and just a handful of people were responsible for most of the few issues that do still occur.

Police Area Commander Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / File
Police Area Commander Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / File

Rotorua mayor Steve Chadwick said "it's really pleasing to hear that this initiative is having a positive effect and people are feeling safer".

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"People's safety is paramount."

However, in councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait's opinion, "It is far too early to sing the praises".

Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait. Photo / Supplied
Rotorua Lakes councillor Merepeka Raukawa-Tait. Photo / Supplied

"You don't get anti-social and criminal behaviour with hordes of people around. And the city has been very busy. I live in the city and the police and additional security staff have been very visible."

When the council launched the summer safety plan, chief executive Geoff Williams said "clearly this is an area that we hadn't budgeted for, to the level that we currently are".

Council chief executive Geoff Williams, front left, with mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File
Council chief executive Geoff Williams, front left, with mayor Steve Chadwick. Photo / File

It will decide whether to continue with the campaign and its costs at the end of February.

"If the joint effort is successful why the hell should it be stopped?" Raukawa-Tait said yesterday.

Hennessy's Irish Bar owner Reg Hennessy agreed.

Hennessy's Irish Bar publican Reg Hennessy. Photo / File
Hennessy's Irish Bar publican Reg Hennessy. Photo / File

He spoke out about the CBD problem in a letter to councillors last month, just before the changes were made.

At the time he called for the night shelter on Pukuatua St to be moved out of the central city, saying Rotorua was turning into a "zombie town".

"We definitely saw a drop while there was a forceful presence, and that's all we've ever asked for as retailers. The two or three weeks of Christmas and New Year were great, but that's not going to solve 52 weeks of the year."

He said the perpetrators had been "creeping back" in the last few days.

"I haven't seen police and security as much ... it's certainly nowhere near where the problem we had, but I expect it to return to the same level unless the presence remains.

Police area commander, Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / Stephen Parker
Police area commander, Anaru Pewhairangi. Photo / Stephen Parker

"It's cat and mouse sometimes. The trouble is back very quickly when police leave. We are open from 9am in the morning to 1am the next day so we see it all."

He also said there was "not a lot security can do sometimes".

"They can't arrest people, and we understand that. They do the best job they can."

Hennessy told the Rotorua Daily Post the problem behaviour had been "disgusting".

"Hitting people up for money, food and cigarettes continually, in many cases it's aggressively too. It's a particular problem for our people sitting outside on the street.

"Sometimes it's beyond unacceptable, quite violent. Just people being general a**holes and intimidatory. Sitting where they shouldn't and that.

"It's amazing the number of tourists who have highlighted the issue to us. It certainly shows the underbelly of Rotorua, that we aren't just a bubbly city with attractive spots."

Tiny Deane, who manages the Visions of Helping Hand Charitable Trust homeless shelter and services said: "If the council's happy that's a good thing, even though I have received a lot of calls of concern from stakeholders in Pukuatua St in the last few days."

Tiny Deane of Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo / File
Tiny Deane of Visions of a Helping Hand. Photo / File

He said the shelter had full-time security, and he had brought in a "no loitering" policy outside the entrance.

Deane said the key to getting people off the streets, was educating them and teaching them skills, "not pushing them out of town".

Since the summer safety plan started, Pewhairangi said "Things have been pretty quiet" but "there is still more work to be done".

He said the council security partnership "means if we are having to deal with issues elsewhere, we know we still have eyes and ears on the ground in the CBD".

A member of the Safe City Guardians, who are part of the summer safety campaign, was honoured at the Rotorua Police Awards last month.

The team responds to more than 500 incidents a year, most of which are identified through monitoring of live CCTV footage.

Inner city safety changes

- From December 11, police, security staff and the Safe City Guardians increased their presence in the inner city and patrolled the streets together whenever possible between 8am and 4am.
- Council CCTV footage has been monitored more frequently from Thursdays to Sundays, with daily briefings for staff.
- Council staff have also worked on bringing more live entertainment and events to the central city area.