Some Rotorua CBD retailers have had enough. Constant screaming, fighting and even staff being assaulted on their doorstep has become the daily norm. More than 10 inner-city business owners met with the council yesterday to share their stories and find a remedy for the issue that is "destroying" the CBD. Caroline Fleming reports. Being punched in the face and having a gun pulled on them are just some of the "horror stories" retailers have been experiencing in the CBD.
These incidents were two of the many tales brought up at Rotorua Lakes Council yesterday with a number of inner-city business owners and councillors.
The meeting was originally spearheaded by the Rotorua CBD Alcohol Accord to discuss street behaviour and its impact on restaurants and bars in the inner city.
But a number of other shop owners, including a hair salon owner and a Lotto shop owner, attended with their own concerns.
Council chief executive Geoff Williams said the meeting was a good place to have a conversation with business owners to discuss their ideas and thoughts on how to address the issue.
Alcohol accord group chairman Paul Croucher said the "disruptive" behaviour of some people on the streets was "destroying the city centre" and causing grief for many business owners.
Honey Comb Salon owner Sarah Pearson said she was punched in the face while trying to help someone outside her store.
"I'm just glad it was me and not a tourist."
Pearson said she was calling the police, security guards and city guardians every day for help with dangerous street behaviour.
She had lost clients, many elderly, because they were too afraid to come into town, she said.
Her goal was to get more police patrolling the streets in working hours.
"I just want to keep my clients safe."
Last year, inner-city patrols and town guardians were deployed to patrol the city centre by the council.
A local restaurant owner said a lack of police presence and increased social housing in the CBD was causing her major problems.
She had considered not putting seating outdoors this summer for her customers' safety, she said.
Hennessy's Irish bar owner Reg Hennessy said he feared for the main street of the city and he was ready to back any initiative the council wanted to throw forward.
''There are horror stories every day.''
Hennessy said one of the business owners at the meeting even had a gun pulled on them.
Hospitality New Zealand Bay of Plenty regional manager Alan Sciascia said having security on the streets gave comfort to many, but police were needed to ensure customers and staff were kept safe.
All it would take was for one tourist to be seriously injured and the city's economic lifeblood would take a hit, he said.
Williams said after taking on the feedback, the council would need to have a conversation with police to see how they could collaboratively approach the problem.
However, he said he had heard how important security measures in the city were to mediate and hold down situations before they escalated or before police needed to get involved.
Williams said every city had its challenges and in order for change "all of us need to be at the table".
The council was up for the discussion and recognised that something needed to change, he said.
A number of city revitalisation projects were in the works, including a five-star hotel that would breathe life into the central city.
Williams said another meeting would be arranged that included police, a Ministry of Social Development representative and a District Health Board member.
The council's community compliance team leader, Kurt Williams, said it was important that business owners reported every incident.
Ponsonby Rd bar owner Tim Smith disagreed with the other retailers and said he wanted to see the hard facts to prove businesses were being affected.
He said his business was doing well and he did not agree that people were veering away from the city centre.
Other managers from Eat Streat expressed their feeling that the city guardians were doing an exceptional job.
The Rotorua Daily Post last month reported the council had several initiatives in place including co-ordinated safety patrols of the inner-city streets, CCTV monitoring, and weekly police meetings to share information and discuss concerns as part of a collaborative safety campaign.
At the time mayor Steve Chadwick also said people's safety was paramount.
"That's why the council has increased surveillance and patrols and why we're continuing to work closely with police."
• A team of 10 patrollers are rostered on from 8am to 3am depending on the day and time of week.
• There is a focus on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights when the city is busier.
• The current cost of this initiative is about $28,000 per month.
- Source: Rotorua Lakes District Council