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Coromandel gears up for hot summer

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A killer problem has brought agencies closer together as they find solutions to keeping holiday-makers and residents safe over summer on the Coromandel.

Senior Sergeant Graham Shields realised the extent of the problem after working his first summer in charge of the CoromandelMake A Splash Police.

On New Year’s Eve in December 2010, 240 people were treated by St John for alcohol and drug related issues. Five of those were flown to hospital by rescue helicopter, 40 people were arrested, and by 5am Senior Sergeant Shields was in the back of an ambulance holding a towel against a hole in the neck of a 23-year-old man who had been stabbed after trying to stop a domestic assault on the beach in Whitianga.

By the end of January 2011, 13 people had been killed on the Coromandel in the peak period.

“Towns like Whangamata and Whitianga attract more summer holiday-makers than anywhere else in New Zealand,” he said.

Sun Safety“For example, the Coromandel Peninsula sold a million nights of accommodation in the summer of 2013. But people let their guard down when they’re on holiday. The problem was unique. Nowhere else had that kind of holiday death toll.”

Now almost five years later the interagency Safe Summer Coromandel Project brings together more than 15 organisations.

After the 2014/15 summer the project group released a report which showed a significant decline in drink driving offences, sexual assaults and public order offences.

The same report showed a significant spike in emergency department presentations on both Christmas day and New Year’s day which was correlated to both a busier summer and the impact of alcohol.

“The increase in 2014/2015 could possibly be attributed to the increased number of visitors. An analysis of statistics provided by the Waikato District Health Board, and anecdotal evidence from those working in the emergency department over this period, confirm there was a spike in alcohol-related injuries over the New Year period,” the report says.

As result of the evaluation the campaign will strongly focus on the influence of alcohol after the project group found that to be the common factor in most injuries and death.

The project was recognised this year at the New Zealand Police Problem Solving Awards for Best Partnership category and took out the overall Best Problem Solving Project.

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