The horde of hoons that tore up Wairarapa roads on December 30 and 31 are part of highly organised groups that police have likened to gangs.
Wairarapa Police have confirmed to the Times-Age that 250 or more cars travelled to the region, carrying between 500 and 600 people – most of them between the ages of 15 and 25.
Dozens of cars came from all directions, with a majority originating from the Hutt, Palmerston North, and Hawke’s Bay.
Police received an indication of the event the day prior but did not anticipate its scale.
On December 30, police initially responded to reports of a congregation of about 150 cars and 300 people at the Harvey Norman car park at 10.30pm.
When police spoke to the organisers, they were told that nothing was going to happen, but a short while later the car park’s entrances and exits to Harvey Norman were blocked off by cars, and police were surrounded and pushed back to allow for the arrival of several trucks and utes loaded with bald tyres.
The throng was reportedly “quite threatening toward police”, which included shooting fireworks at them [“a common tactic for them”] and some attendees causing minor damage to the bonnets of patrol cars by jumping on them.
Police withdrew from the scene when the situation became “exceptionally unsafe” for them, and the ‘boy racers’ took to the region’s roads, initially targeting remote country areas before massing at the new roundabout at the intersection of State Highway 2 and East Taratahi and Wiltons roads, where they proceeded to “drop more rubber” for around 90 minutes.
The group had spotters who would warn rest when police cars were en route to burnout hotspots, giving the drivers time to get away.
The vast majority of those who turned up were there to watch, with only 10 to 20 cars participating in burnouts.
Police believe one of the attendees was likely to have been seriously injured during the event when they were knocked over on the SH2 roundabout by one of the cars doing burnouts.
Believed to be a 15 or 16 years-old female, the person “got hit pretty hard and went flying through the air” although checks with hospitals have not resulted in them being located.