Faeces smeared on property: Group of youths frustrate local business owners in Tūrangi

Tūrangi business owners have been left frustrated by a group vandalising property and harassing guests.

However, a local police officer said it was important to keep the incidents “in context” and he was willing to work with the community on solutions.

A motel manager in Tūrangi, who wished to remain anonymous, told the Rotorua Daily Post the people involved were young, “about 12 years old” and their behaviour had escalated in recent weeks.

“At the start of the year it was all semi-harmless,” she said.

“They would always trespass, try to get into the guests’ swimming pool, trying to pretend they were customers and us having to chase them off the property.

“But, in April they found an ashtray outside one of the units and left a poo in it, then left that in the games room. I don’t know if it was animal or human.

“Customers came to us when they found it that morning. We did a big clean of the room and found they had smeared it all over one of the chairs as well.”

The motel manager said, upon speaking to other accommodation providers in the area, it became clear her motel was not the only one being targeted.

At another motel, someone had defecated on the floor of the guests’ shared laundry and smeared it on washing machines and dryers, she said.

Other incidents motel owners told her about included young people throwing rocks at guests, riding bikes and scooters through the property, knocking on the doors of units to disrupt guests staying in them and slashing holes in a trampoline.

“It’s pretty sad because we’re meant to be coming out of Covid and everyone wants jobs. Without us motels, there’s nobody staying here, there’s no tourism. It really does have a major flow-on effect on the economy and every business in town.”

The motel manager questioned what was being done to stop the youths in question.

“It seems most motels in the area have been affected and we call police each time and sometimes they don’t arrive in time.”

A pastor at a Tūrangi church, who also wished to remain anonymous, said young people broke into the church with a crowbar and caused damage inside in September last year.

The incident was dealt with by police at the time but he believed they could be part of the group involved in more recent incidents.

Tūrangi constable John Malpas said he was more than willing to work with the community on solutions.

He discouraged business owners from taking matters into their own hands.

“What these people are doing is wrong but we do have to remember they are children and we can’t just throw them in jail,” he said.

“I’m not saying what they are doing is okay. I’m not saying it’s not happening but we do have to be careful of taking it out of context.”

Malpas said officers were making themselves more visible by driving around the area and he had made himself available to anyone who wanted to discuss the issue and come up with solutions together.

“We do a lot to try and prevent these things happen. In the last few days, we’ve spent hours driving around and haven’t spotted them.

“I’m not saying it isn’t happening but when these motel owners chase them and swear at them, that’s kind of what these kids want, they’re getting a reaction. The other day some guests took the kids’ bikes and skateboards off them as a punishment which is technically theft.”

He said police resources in Tūrangi were limited and those on duty could not be everywhere at all times.

When possible, other units in or near the area would respond but otherwise, Tūrangi police had to give other jobs, such as serious car crashes or assaults, priority.

Malpas still encouraged members of the community to call the police whenever they saw illegal activity so the incident could be logged.

“I saw a Facebook post saying Tūrangi police are useless and not doing anything so there’s no point calling them,” he said.

“It’s really dangerous when you decide to stop calling the police, the main reason being if you don’t call, you definitely won’t get help because we don’t know about it.

“The other issue, and this is what the community is struggling with, is if you aren’t reporting every incident, statistically speaking there are no jobs happening in Tūrangi and that’s what our managers use to allocate resources. It helps paint a picture.”

He said, as a small community, it was important to work together to come up with solutions.

“Our powers with young people are limited. There are a lot of misunderstandings about what we can and can’t do.

“I’m more than happy to work with people to prevent things from happening.”

He said the area’s youth aid section was already proactively working with some of the children’s families.

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