City parties greet new year in style
WELLINGTONIANS ushered in the new year in well-behaved style in stark contrast to Mount Maunganui revellers who partied out of control, with more than 70 arrests made for flaunting alcohol bans. About 5000 people thronged Queens Wharf for a party and laser light show. A similar number attended a free non-alcohol party in Civic Square.
At the Wakefield car park, thousands of raucous revellers drowned out a traditional bagpipe salute to the new year. Blair St was blocked off at both ends as a street party slowly built and continued till dawn.
Central city firefighters greeted the year battling a fire that seriously damaged the top level of a three-storey building near the corner of Willis and Aro Sts.
In Mount Maunganui, police were busy as people flouted an alcohol ban on the main beach. A spokesman said about 70 people were arrested before midnight, mostly for ignoring the ban. Others were arrested for fighting and other disorder offences. "We're real busy but I think we're on top of it. We'd called in extra officers from Rotorua and Whakatane beforehand -- we knew we'd be busy and we were right."
In Palmerston North, large numbers of family groups gathered in Broadway to celebrate without incident, police said. Two people saw in the new year at the police station, failing breath alcohol tests and were charged with drunk driving.
Taupo police reported a quiet start to 1999, with a large group of mostly young visitors gathering in Tongariro St. No arrests were made before midnight.
In the South Island, about 9000 young people at The Gathering dance party in the isolated Takaka Hills raved without incident. Two uniformed police officers patrolled the large area, which contained seven separate performance areas, but reported no problems.
At Furneaux Lodge in the Marlborough Sounds, where Blenheim friends Ben Smart and Olivia Hope spent last New Year's Eve before they disappeared, a spokeswoman said the bar was steadily busy. A lot of people were partying on boats before heading into the lodge, which can be reached only by water, for the midnight countdown.
Nelson police reported fairly quiet celebrations, with traffic kept out of the central city, and a wide-ranging ban on drinking alcohol in public.
Caption: ANTHONY PHELPS Midnight revellers celebrate New Year in Wellington's Civic Square