Regional | England

Police urging ‘safe and sensible’ Rugby League World Cup celebrations

Police are appealing to Toa Samoa fans around New Zealand ahead of this weekend’s history Rugby League World Cup final:  “Enjoy your moment but please be safe and remain peaceful.”

Police around the country will have an increased presence in centres where rugby league fans have been turning out in force to fly their team’s flag. Toa Samoa will play the Australian Kangaroos in the final early on Sunday morning NZT.

Counties Manukau District Commander Jill Rogers says the community can expect to see a highly visible police presence this weekend on the streets of Tāmaki Makaurau to help keep the public safe, and prevent any disorder incidents, surrounding the game.

“We appreciate this is a time for immense celebration and while we are thrilled for supporters that their teams have made the final, we encourage fans to celebrate in a safe and sensible manner.”

Over the past few weeks, police have been dealing with a number of 'disorder events' following Tongan and Samoan supporters taking their celebrations to the streets of South Auckland, particularly in Counties Manukau West, including Māngere and Ōtāhuhu.

Serious injuries

“Last week, one person received serious injuries in an entirely preventable incident after sliding off a “moving car she was sitting on, and was run over.

While they are now recovering in a stable condition, we do not want to see any repeat incidents and we continue to urge fans to celebrate in a safe and respectful manner.”

Rogers says police are aware of planned celebrations, including a parade in Clendon Shopping Centre on Friday, a parade in the Auckland CBD on Saturday, and that a dedicated fan zone has been organised in Māngere ahead of the much-anticipated final.

“These will all be monitored accordingly. We hope those who are attending enjoy the day but we are asking the community to be considerate of the safety and wellbeing of those present.”

She noted children were expected to be at these events, “and the focus should remain on providing an enjoyable outing for families”.

There was an alcohol ban in and around the fan zone, as well as in other central areas including Henderson, Otara, Ōtāhuhu, Manurewa, as outlined by Auckland Council’s existing bylaws and these would be strictly enforced.

‘Don’t block streets’

People acting inappropriately and putting themselves and others at harm by riding on vehicles or setting off fireworks in crowded areas would not be tolerated.

Rogers said it was important excited fans did not block streets stopping traffic.

“This puts themselves and others at risk and, dangerously, prevents access for vital emergency services, while also causing significant disruption for members of the public.

“There is likely to be significant congestion around the central hubs of Counties Manukau on Saturday night and Sunday morning and accordingly, detours may be in place to manage the flow of traffic.

She said police might introduce further diversions and road closures depending on the level of activity at the time, which would be on a case-by-case basis.

“We advise motorists to expect extended travel time delays so please consider alternate routes if you are looking to travel through these main areas this weekend.

Convoy concerns

Meanwhile, Hawke’s Bay Police are expecting Toa Samoa fans to be out in force this weekend.

Area Commander Inspector Lincoln Sycamore said Police would be cheering on from the sidelines and would have a visible presence, including at the fans event planned for the Sound Shell on Saturday, to make sure celebrations were safe.

“We aren’t aware of any formal plans for a convoy. However, we are expecting that excited fans may travel in procession.

“We urge our proud Samoan supporters to enjoy the occasion, but to drive and behave safely, and to be considerate of other road users.  Motorists not keen to be involved in the rugby league celebrations, are encouraged to plan ahead in case of delays.”

Last week’s Samoa’s win over the English last weekend, Police received several calls about a convoy of 20 to 30 vehicles travelling from Hastings to Napier, Inspector Sycamore said.

Slow speed

Callers were concerned with driver and passenger behaviour, and the risk the slow speeds were posing to other drivers.

“It’s really important to us that people are driving in a safe manner and that passengers are restrained.

“It’s going to be a great weekend for Toa Samoa and we want people to have fun and enjoy themselves – even the Australians.”

Wellington District saw groups of Samoan supporters celebrating last weekend ahead of the semi-final win against England, and this week Police are expecting the same as they take on Australia.

Hutt Valley Area Commander Inspector Dion Bennett says Police are aware of a number of gatherings planned, and is urging fans and whänau to have fun but look out for and respect those around them.

‘Stay safe’

“Police have over the last week or so received calls reporting unsafe driving behaviour such as people leaning out car windows and off the back of utes,” he says.

“We wish our Samoan aiga all the best - fly your flags high, but please keep yourselves and others safe.”

Police are aware of convoys planned for the afternoon and early evening on Saturday in Waitangirua and Cannons Creek, and Fraser Park in Riverside.

There’s also a convoy planned for late Saturday night from Waitangirua through Porirua CBD to the train station, as well as big screens set up in Cannons Creek and Porirua.

“Police will have a presence in areas we know fans will gather, and will respond appropriately to any issues that arise, such as unsafe driving behaviour or disorder.

“Regardless of whether you're backing blue or going for the green and gold, remember – don’t drop the ball, and keep yourselves and everyone else safe until the last play.”