Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller. PHOTO/FILE

Essential services under pressure

KAREN COLTMAN
karen.coltman@age.co.nz

“Go home and stay home because if you don’t, after we have educated you, we will arrest you,” frustrated Wairarapa Police Area Commander Scott Miller said on Tuesday.

Miller said Carterton and South Wairarapa were quiet, but many Masterton people were not complying with the rules.

“It is like a normal day here with far too many cars on the road,” he said.

“We are catching people driving to nowhere in particular and they are risking making people sick and are wasting police time.”

Grocery stores have been telling police of “repeat offender” customers coming in for one item then coming back on the same day, sometimes several times.

Miller said it was obvious that some drivers were heading off to see friends.

“We are watching people driving around and visiting people,” he said.

“One lady was ‘delivering a pie to a friend’. Others are going to ‘get a tiny bit of petrol’ a few times a day. This is not acceptable. This is breaking the rules.

“As far as I am concerned, the people who are driving around Masterton are risking this situation going on for longer.

“They are risking people’s jobs and the mental stability of others who are not coping in isolation.”

Just after 5pm on Tuesday, a motorcyclist was arrested for failing to stop for police.

Two people were seen riding a motorcycle without helmets on Michael St, Masterton at about 5.15pm.

The rider failed to stop when signalled to do so by police and fled.

The motorcycle came to a stop a short time later on Church St.

Charges are likely.

Police have also seen Facebook posts from people who have gone hunting and are bragging about it.

“This is totally wrong because anyone that gets hurt or lost brings a whole lot of essential service workers and rescue services out of their bubble to help them,” Miller said.

“This puts them all at risk and takes them off other work. It is not okay to go hunting or fishing.”

Miller reported that people were speeding more than usual, and said this was unhelpful because it was illegal, time consuming for police, and crashes brought already busy essential staff in.

“Essential services are under huge pressure and having to deal with so many people out on the streets is making it worse.”

The Pak’nSave, New World, and Countdown supermarket car parks were almost full on Tuesday afternoon at around 2pm, and a Times-Age reporter counted 18 cars travelling through the Bannister and Dixon St intersection in two minutes.

Meanwhile, Masterton fire station officer Garry Nielsen wants people “locked down” in their homes to be extra vigilant about fire safety so that staff and volunteers were not travelling to put out preventable fires.

Nielsen said the normal rules to not leave stovetop cooking unattended, or not having combustible material near heaters or fireplaces were particularly important during the national state of emergency.

He said fire service staff and volunteers needed to remain well and the less they went out for fire assistance jobs, the less they were risking their own personal health.

“Everyone is under stress and we are working hard to keep in our bubbles,” Nielsen said.

“Firefighters are operating in two bubbles, their own, and one at their fire station.

“It takes a lot of commitment to stay safe and protected from the virus.

“Our emergency services are vital at any time but during this pandemic we need to reduce the workload of our emergency service workers, especially volunteers and reduce their exposure to the virus.

“However, we will always aim to be there when we are needed.”

But Nielsen said the fire service did not want to be called out and into other people’s bubbles if they were having illegal burn-ups in their backyard.