New tactics aimed at nipping trouble in the bud have been credited with a drop in the number of New Year's Eve arrests in Paihia, despite big crowds and what police describe as high levels of alcohol-fuelled disorder.
Monday night's clear skies drew thousands of people to Paihia while others partied on Urupukapuka Island. For the tenth year running Business Paihia launched a midnight fireworks show from a barge moored offshore, while a church group put on a band and a free sausage sizzle on the Village Green.
Police again used Paihia's Memorial Hall as a base and a converted shipping container as a temporary lock-up.
Emergency services were called to a number of crashes, the most serious of which occurred on Kerikeri Road less than an hour into the new year, a car and a courtesy van taking party-goers home colliding. The van, owned by Kerikeri's Pear Tree Restaurant, rolled and came to rest on its side.
Three members of one family, one of them seriously injured, were flown to Whangarei Hospital by rescue helicopter while five were taken to Bay of Islands Hospital by ambulance. Twelve people were injured in all, the critically injured being a 49-year-old man and a 77-year-old woman.
The crash is still under investigation, although Senior Sergeant Peter Robinson said it was believed that the van had pulled out of a driveway into the path of an oncoming car.
Meanwhile Far North police area commander Inspector Wendy Robilliard said that while fewer arrests were made this year, officers had been kept busy separating people involved in alcohol-fuelled disorder. As of 2am on Tuesday six people had been arrested in Paihia for fighting, assault and disorder, while others had been issued pre-charge warnings for breaching the liquor ban.
Elsewhere, one person was arrested for disorder in Kaeo and police in Kerikeri and Kaitaia were kept busy dealing with alcohol-related domestic violence.
Kaikohe police made one arrest after a car chase all the way to Dargaville.
Inspector Robilliard said she was disappointed with the amount of alcohol some revellers consumed and their "clear disregard" for the liquor ban.
"One or two drinks is fine, but people are pre-loading with alcohol, then getting stuck in again when they're in town," she said.
"Most people were friendly and jovial but a small minority over-indulged and a created a lot of work for us."
Sixty police staff were on duty across the Far North, with 25 in Paihia/Russell and the rest in Kaeo, Kaikohe, Kaitaia, Kawakawa, Kerikeri, Opononi and Taupo Bay.