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Summer congestion tests tempers

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Emergency services were delayed at the Hill Street intersection responding to several emergencies including, the eight-metre yacht Thesaurus, which took two days to re-float after running aground at Omaha Beach on January 19. Kawau Volunteer Coastguard responded to an emergency call at 1am to search for the stricken vessel. The mast and keel were removed for the second attempt at high-tide salvage.

While holidaymakers and locals were on good behaviour this summer, the influx of people and traffic continued to put pressure on emergency services and water supplies across the district. A dry December and holiday loads created two week delays for water, with Kaipara District Council forced to truck water into Mangawhai from Whangarei. The Hill Street intersection was a dangerous delay for emergency services, who struggled to get past the bottleneck. Kawau Coastguard vice-president Brett Howlett says a response to a mayday distress call on January 4 was delayed by a vital 10 minutes, when a crew member was stuck at the intersection. “That was an urgent distress call so it’s as serious as you can get – 10 minutes can be the difference between life and death,” he says. A boat was taking on water after hitting the rocks off Little Barrier. The coastguard arrived in time to make temporary repairs and keep them afloat until a salvage vessel took over. “The outcome was good, it was only property damaged, but it could have been a lot worse if there had been people in the water.” Warkworth Sergeant Bede Haughey says incidents on SH1 affected traffic flow around Warkworth, with queues backed up to Ascension Vineyard on Matakana Road during busy weekends. “Thankfully, there were no critical incidents to attend during those times because the impact is huge for police and other emergency services struggling to get through the gridlock,” Sgt Haughey says. Over the holiday season, officers attended numerous traffic accidents including two serious but non-fatal accidents. “Congestion is the new normal and people have got to get used to it. Motorists need to be patient and leave more time,” Sgt Haughey says. Traffic and speed was an issue in Mangawhai, where 480 cars were recorded speeding on the main drag over four hours on January 13. Sergeant Geoff Medland says the speed camera on Molesworth Drive was directly outside the 50km/h Mangawhai Activity Zone for children. “It’s very disappointing. Some would have been locals or families on holiday with children who use that park.” Otherwise, it was a quiet summer for police in Mangawhai and Wellsford, despite an influx of New Year’s revellers, including 9000 at the Northern Bass music festival. “We had very few incidents. I was very impressed especially considering the large amount of people this year. We have to pat our communities on the back; we all worked hard for a peaceful summer,” Sgt Medland says. He says this summer they worked on preventative policing and community partnerships with venues, security, transport operators and council. They had one report of theft of water but it had not yet been confirmed. In Warkworth, police also reported a good summer with well managed pubs and no serious incidents on New Year’s eve. They will now be turning their attention to bar staff at sports and social clubs, and will host an education evening at Warkworth RSA on February 21. “People behind the bar at clubs are usually volunteers and it’s difficult for them to say ‘no’ to friends. We want to ensure they are taking the necessary steps to get their patrons home safely and minimise alcohol related harm,” Sgt Haughey says. Warkworth police are also investigating eight thefts from boats moored around Scotts Landing during the past two months. They have enlisted the help of the Police Maritime Unit and enquiries are ongoing. The unit’s Sgt Craig Kennedy says petty thefts of electronics and equipment are not uncommon and boat owners had to be vigilant. On a positive note, they had noticed a marked increase in people wearing lifejackets this summer. Kawau Coastguard also noticed more people wearing lifejackets but there was less uptake with older men. “They think it’s never going to happen to them,” Mr Howlett says. He says the general awareness and safety on the water is increasing, with less callouts for running out of fuel. However, summer is always a busy time with Northland region reporting 15,932 radio calls in December, with the busiest 1946 radio calls on December 31, and 299 incidents, with the majority for mechanical, electrical or fuel related issues.

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