Wairarapa roads were once again the scene of what appears to have been a highly organised “anti-social driving” event on Saturday night and the early hours of Sunday morning that saw the responding police outnumbered, ignored – and then attacked.
A report of a car doing burnouts on Perry St at 9.49pm on Saturday, then leaving “nearly straight away”, proved to be just a taste of the motorised mayhem that was to come.
According to Wairarapa Police Senior Sergeant Gill Flower, a “massive number of cars” – mainly from the Hutt and Palmerston North but also including some locals – descended on the region a short time later, congregating at the Harvey Norman car park in Masterton before proceeding to exhibit what she described as “absolutely disgusting behaviour” on the region’s rural roads.
The first and main target of the horde of hoons – which Flower said numbered around 300 cars – was Longbush and Millars roads, where they spent some time etching the tarmac with the long black marks of their burnouts, although Admiral Rd was also on the itinerary.
The group then travelled in convoy to the new roundabout at the intersection of State Highway 2 and East Taratahi and Wiltons roads.
A resident who lives near the intersection and preferred to remain anonymous said she was woken by the sound of revving engines, screeching tyres, and shouting at around 12.30pm on Sunday morning.
“There were people for Africa at the roundabout,” she told the Times-Age.
“There were cars lined up at every entrance of the intersection and hundreds of people standing on the roundabout as cars did burnouts around it. It was quite the social event.”
The resident rang police, only to be told that they were already on their way. The activity lasted for around 90 minutes before the cars and their passengers “dissipated around 2am”.
Prior to that, “they were really going for it,” the resident said.
“They were well organised too, busy changing tires on the side of the road after they’d burned them out.
“There was obviously a fair bit of drinking going on too – this morning I had to pick up a number of empty alcohol boxes that had been dumped on the side of the road.”
When the cars left the roundabout, they continued to “work their way down SH2, dropping rubber all the way”, Flower said.
Sections of SH2 were still strewn with ribbons of frayed rubber on Sunday afternoon.
As reported on Saturday, Wairarapa police had extra staff rostered on for the weekend in anticipation of New Year celebrations and were therefore able to deploy eight cars to the burnouts.
But there was little they could do, a clearly frustrated Flower said, because they were hugely outnumbered by the anti-social drivers and their passengers.
“We did what we could, but when you have a large, aggressive group, that’s pretty limited” – especially given police only had “24 hours warning they were coming in our direction”.
The attending officers photographed and videoed the cars and crowd but had to withdraw after they were attacked, had fireworks thrown at them, and one of the police cars was damaged.
“This was a large, anti-social group who didn’t listen, didn’t comply, and didn’t care about the damage they were causing and how they were putting people at risk,” Flower said.
“They have no respect for the public or the roads.”
Unfortunately, Flower said, because Wairarapa’s “wider rural roads are conducive to this kind of activity”, there’s likely to be more such anti-social driving gatherings in the region during the remainder of the summer.
“These people need to grow up and take responsibility for their actions. But in the absence of that, people are strongly encouraged to call 111 whenever they see such behaviour happening.”