Town responds to holiday crowds

Toilets closure foils teen hangout

Alison Smith




Front Page

If traffic and supermarket queues or data use are anything to go by, this festive season was a bumper on the Coromandel. Vodafone is reporting record highs for data usage and bumped holiday capacity in hotspots like Whangamata. The Thames Coromandel District Council has gathered data from water use, traffic numbers and visitor spend that will indicate how many holidaymakers swarmed to the Coromandel but says it will take a few weeks to collate and analyse. For most of the year the population of the Thames-coromandel District is around 32,000. For 2020-21, it was estimated the peak reached 116,300 people on December 31, 2020. A Whangamata New Year’s hotspot remained “relatively troublefree” with council staff shutting public toilets overnight to kill a teen hangout. It came at a cost to ratepayers — including closure of the public toilets and 10 security guards at $5000 a night. The toilets have been repeatedly vandalised in recent years, costing tens of thousand of dollars to repair and the damage closed some toilet stalls for days while repairs were made. Responding to questions by local elected members, council communications manager Laurna White said staff decided to close the toilets at Williamson Park from 9pm-6am for the holiday period 26 December to 5 January. Contractors cleaning and repairing the damage to the toilets in previous years were exposed to health and safety risks from picking broken glass covered in faeces and vomit out of toilet bowls that were blocked, she said. “Council staff made the decision to close the Williamson Park toilets overnight based on the experience of serious vandalism and anti-social behaviour in the toilets in previous years and on the advice of police and security guards. “Our council accepts that the closures have caused inconvenience for some, but the impact has been beneficial overall. We received one complaint and saw one complaint posted on a Whangamata¯ social media page.” Security guards were on duty in Williamson Park on 30 and 31 December from 7pm to 2am each night. The cost was $9150 plus GST. TCDC staff say the number of young people milling around the park is decreasing year on year. “The overnight closure has also removed a site for anti-social behaviour that has occurred in the toilets in the past.” Retailers are reporting being busy in Waihi Beach, Tairua and Whangamata. But Ricky Bowen, owner of New World Whangamata, said customer numbers were down about 20 per cent, likely because they had to limit numbers inside to 120 which he thinks may have put people off. “The wait was only five minutes maximum and our sales were still up over the three weeks,” he said. “We still had people line dup in the ailes but nowhere near as bad. “We definitely noticed the younger crowd disappear straight away after New Year, with the older groups pretty much coming in after.”