Rotorua business owners blame emergency housing for crimes

Frustrated Rotorua business owners believe the amount of emergency housing in the city is contributing to a recent spate of ram raids.

There have been over 400 raids across Aotearoa in the past 12 months, and Bay of Plenty businesses are among those most targeted.

Rotorua’s Arawa Bowling Club.
photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

With most crimes so far not prosecuted, locals say enough is enough.

They met with police and community leaders on Tuesday to talk about how bad things have become, and to urge further action.

Rotorua local Don Paterson said the city had gone downhill in recent years.

“We used to be New Zealand’s number one visitor destination, where we felt safe and secure in our homes and we were proud of offering manaakitanga to our visitors,” he said.

“Now we wouldn’t even rate in the top 10. People are avoiding Rotorua like the plague.”

Paterson said ram raids were a new phenomenon in the city, which he put down to offenders seeking notoriety.

“They just love being famous so they jumped on that as an opportunity, and of course with the gangs… They know that these young ones don’t get punished, so they send them out to do their dirty work,” he said.

“And as far as the public goes, we’re fed up with it. Our community has been getting given a real kicking for the last three years.

Ram raid damage at the Rotoma petrol station.

Ram raid damage at the Rotoma petrol station.
photo: supplied

“People are seeing that the police are overstretched, resources can’t cope, and now it’s going to be on to the business owners to put bollards and security systems in place.

“That’s not a nice way to operate. That’s just not fair.”

The meeting followed the ram raid of the Rotomā service station earlier in August. It was the third time the station had been targeted, with thieves stealing $10,000 worth of cigarettes, vapes and sunglasses.

Media were not permitted to attend the meeting, but attendees spoke to RNZ outside.

James Magatogia, an operations manager for Super Liquor, said franchises in the area are being targeted on a frighteningly frequent basis.

“We had two ram raids in a week… We’ve had smashed windows, runners hassling regulars. Our customers and staff have been threatened on a regular basis over the last two years.”

“We need to feel safe.”

Magatogia claimed the problems are being exacerbated by the amount of emergency housing in Rotorua, and said it will take more than just beefing up security to address them.

“Bollards will stop a car going through a window, but that’s not going to stop people smashing the glass windows. It’s not going to stop the 4am call-outs that we have to get out of bed and to come and clean up.

“They’re not going to stop the hassling of customers… There needs to be something to assist us with that as well.”

Rotorua electorate MP Todd McClay said businesses are feeling demoralized and ignored.

“The growing concern of the community, particularly amongst the shop owners who feel picked on, is that we’re starting to see more and more ram raids in the area.

“Not that long ago my son’s car was stolen from outside the house and used for a ram raid.”

He claimed young people are coming from Auckland to perform ram raids in the area.

“The police are doing everything they can, but they’re under-resourced in Rotorua.

Ram raid damage at the Rotomā petrol station

Ram raid damage at the Rotomā petrol station
photo: supplied

“They need more government support, more police on the beat, so they can get on top of this to make sure that shopkeepers and the public is safe.”

McClay said police too are feeling disheartened.

A police statement said a key to understanding why so many ram raids are happening is to identify where stolen property is ending up.

Like the rest of New Zealand identified offenders in the Bay of Plenty are mostly young people aged between 14 and 20 years old.

“We know there’s a certain level of planning involved as they work around various prevention methods such as screens, locks and bollards, and that they’re adapting their tactics to avoid detection,” the police statement said.

The meeting was organized by superette owner and city councilor of Raj Kumar, who’s worried what the level of crime will do to his community’s reputation.

Rotorua dairy owner and city councilor Raj Kumar.

Rotorua dairy owner and city councilor Raj Kumar.
photo: RNZ / Leonard Powell

“Something needs to be done before Rotorua becomes the boarded-up capital, the slum capital or the bollard capital of New Zealand.

“It’s just not going to be a place where tourists, let alone locals will want to be.

“Rotorua is a beautiful city, always has been a wonderful place. People have come over here for adventure tourism, people have come over here for all sorts of activities.”

“You know it’s ‘godzone’ and we need to keep it that way.”

A follow-up community meeting is being arranged in four to six weeks’ time.


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