By ALISON BROWN in Rotorua
Police are bolstering their ranks across the region ahead of New Year's Eve festivities.
Officials say the fact that New Year's Eve falls on a Saturday is likely to result in a busy time for police, with more people in a celebratory mood.
Extra police will be on the streets in Rotorua, Taupo, the Eastern Bay of Plenty, Tauranga and Mt Maunganui.
Senior Sergeant Anna Jackson of the Rotorua police said an extra 26 staff would be working in Rotorua, on top of the normal night shift and traffic staff.
Police patrolling central city streets and the Rotorua Lakefront would be taking a "zero tolerance" approach to the liquor ban.
"We expect to have the normal family atmosphere at the Mardi Gras but anyone breaching the liquor ban will not receive a warning before they're arrested."
The extra police would be out in force in Rotorua from 7pm, working staggered shifts until about 5am. Although some Rotorua staff were rostered to work at Mt Maunganui and Taupo, there would be plenty of staff to call on in the event of any serious trouble, Mrs Jackson said.
Traditionally, Rotorua did not have as much trouble compared with other holiday hotspots, such as Taupo, where police set up special processing centres to cope with the large number of arrests. Anyone arrested in Rotorua will spend the night in police station cells.
Forty-one people, including two minors, were arrested in Rotorua for breaching the liquor ban and disorderly behaviour last New Year's Eve.
The year before police made more than 100 arrests and during the same period in 2002, 57 people were arrested.
Rotorua mayor Kevin Winters wants people to enjoy the Mardi Gras concert at the Soundshell and respect the city's liquor ban.
"Wouldn't it be great if Rotorua was able to set the standard for the rest of New Zealand, showing how to have a big party and to see in the New Year without major incident?" Senior Sergeant Bruce Jenkins of Whakatane police would not reveal how many staff were rostered on to work New Year's Eve. But he said police would be strictly enforcing the liquor ban in Whakatane's central business district, all parks and reserves, Kopeopeo and throughout Ohope.
Police were working closely with private security at the Ohope Beach Top 10 Holiday Park, where as many as 3000 people were expected to gather.
Meanwhile, staff numbers have also been boosted at police communication centres to deal with the anticipated rise in calls over the Christmas/New Year period. Between December 24 last year and January 5, communication centres nationally received 27,875 triple one calls. The number of calls peaked on January 1 with 2643 people dialling 111. A further 50,274 non-emergency calls were logged.
Based on last year's numbers, more staff have been rostered on to contend with the increased call volumes.
Northern Communications Centre manager Inspector Karen Wilson said the holidays were a particularly intense time for families. Most of the calls were related to disorderly conduct or family violence and almost all incidents were fuelled by alcohol and drugs, she said.
"Things can get out of hand very quickly. People can stop the situation from escalating by taking a bit of time out, not drinking too much, and not overspending.
"You don't need to resort to violence to sort out your issues."
By ALISON BROWN in Rotorua