Ban on alcohol brought back for popular spot

An alcohol ban at a campsite close to the Benmore Dam was reinstated by the Waitaki District Council earlier this week.

The ban, which was implemented to protect the community and improve safety over Labour Weekend, covers the upper terrace of Loch Laird and the foreshore between Loch Laird and the wildlife camp near Otematata, after partying had become a concern to the local community.

At its meeting on Tuesday, the council heard the upper terrace of Loch Laird had been a de-facto venue for partying during the long weekend in the past.

A report to councillors said that for up to 20 years, the upper terrace at the Loch Laird camping ground had been a location for predominantly high-school-aged students to party at Labour Weekend.

About 250 people attended the ‘‘unofficial’’ event each year, allegedly dropped off with alcohol from parents and caregivers.

It fuelled ‘‘undesirable and unsafe’’ behaviour, including broken glass, assaults, damaged toilet blocks, drunk teenagers vomiting and people trying to drive.

While the land was not provided as a venue for those activities , the council was perceived by some as providing a venue for a managed community event. However, it was an uncontrolled event.

Following a community taskforce investigation last year, which looked at the options, an alcohol ban was imposed as a proactive management measure.

During last year’s liquor ban, designated parking, floodlighting and extra facilities were in place at the top terrace, and there were extra police staff, security staff and community patrols in the area during the weekend.

Last year, the Otago Daily Times reported a small group of people set up camp on the Friday, but packed up soon after. The liquor ban area was unoccupied for the rest of the weekend.

Deputy mayor Melanie Tavendale said the move had taken the pressure off emergency services last year and there were fewer incidents as a result.

‘‘It gives both the police and our staff a bit more control and stops it getting out of control.’’

There had been a lot of community support for the ban, she said.