20 Oct 2017

Safe-zone for party-goers piloted in Wellington

12:33 pm on 20 October 2017

A safe zone for party-goers in Wellington's CBD over the summer is to be launched early next month.

A St Johns ambulance on the scene of fires in the Hawkes Bay. 14 February 2017.

Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The forecourt of the Opera House on Manners Street in the city centre will be set up so people who may have drunk too much have a safe place to get water, charge their phone, or seek medical advice.

The alcohol-free space named Take-10 will be run by the Wellington-based Vulnerable Support Charitable Trust and primarily targets 18 to 30-year-olds.

Trust spokesperson Paul Retimanu said one of the drivers in setting up the initiative was to help alleviate the pressure on emergency services on Saturday nights.

"The police and medical staff, as well as the Wellington City Council local hosts, believe this will alleviate a bit of their time spent running around trying to chase up everything."

Mr Retimanu said the concept was based on the success of the Auckland safe zone which had run during the summer over the past four years.

Victoria University students' association president Rory Lenihan-Ikin said the university had also seen success with their safe zones which were set up and run in conjunction with orientation-week events.

He said they were particularly helpful for students that were new to Wellington.

"Students that have just moved from different parts of the country, it's their first week here. They're getting out and meeting a whole lot of new people, everything's really new and naturally a lot of that can be overwhelming."

The programme will be piloted for six months after receiving almost $70,000 in funding - $50,000 of which was from the Wellington City Council.

Social development councillor Brian Dawson said he hoped it would be successful and be allocated more funding after the trial finished in April next year.

"We'll be looking quite closely at how it goes; are people accessing it, is it providing a helpful service - and we're pretty confident it will be, but we obviously need to look at the results."

Inner-City Wellington, a community group representing businesses and residents in the central city was also optimistic about the programme.

Spokesperson Sarah Webb said she hoped it would help limit trouble caused to residents as drunken people walked home after a night out.

"It's the noise factor, it's the yahoo-ing and the singing, it's the urinating in peoples' gardens and in their entranceways, it's the bottles ... if you can take people from the support zone and get them safely home then you don't get those problems as much."

Wellington police were also supportive of the initiative.

Wellington City Area Commander Inspector Chris Bensemann said anything that could help patrons be safe and feel safe on Wellington streets at night was a positive thing.

"The extra support the Take-10 initiative can provide people who need a helping hand when out and about enjoying Wellington nightlife, is supported by police," he said.

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