Waterpark closure causes outcry

Waterworld employees dismantle the inflatable water course on January 13 after its announced closure. Photo Wayne Martin.

The closing of a popular water park at Maraetai Beach after an alleged assault and vandalism has caused an outcry of community anger and calls for more police presence.

Maraetai Waterworld Water Park made a splash in the community over the summer as thousands of kids and adults enjoyed the various obstacles and activities on the inflatable course.

On Christmas Day, staff at Maraetai Beach were threatened with knives, media outlets reported. The vessel was significantly damaged.

A second attack occurred at another of the water park’s three sites, Red Beach. Several anchor chains on the compound were cut. Equipment was reported stolen.

Around $80,000 was lost in staff time, revenue and repairs, Stuff reported.

On January 12, a lifeguard was “bashed” by a group of offenders on his way home after they recognised him as the employee that told them to get off the park.

They further threatened him by saying they would be “coming back to the park”, owner Kel Travers told Stuff.

“He was thankfully ok,” Travers said.

About 50 people broke into the park the following morning. The two security guards on duty could only watch helplessly, Travers said.

Finally, after the various incidents, the park closed.

The community outcry on social media has been significant. Hundreds of comments were left, labelling the actions of the offenders as “disgusting”, “shameful”, and “unacceptable”.

Many were calling for more police presence and involvement.

Beachlands Constable Jack Hibbs told the Times that, on December 20, police commenced Operation Beaches in anticipation of the busy summer period.

“Police have not seen an increase in criminal behaviour such as anti-social and dishonesty offending,” Hibbs says.

“What have increased are the calls for service for by-law breaches such as overnight camping, noise and barking.”

“Police are working with council in regard to an increase in calls for (those) who have legislative powers to remove campers, seize loud stereos and move on illegal parking.”

Since the opening of Maraetai Waterworld on December 19, there have been two calls for service to police.

“On both occasions, staff were dispatched but stood down by the respective informants as the situations were under control and police presence was no longer needed.”

There have been no reports to police of lifeguards being assaulted or any other criminal activity requiring further investigation, Hibbs says.

“Teams who have been working on the beaches over the summer have reported positive interactions with the event owner, the security personnel and members of the public.

“We remain committed to the approach outlined at the start of the summer operation and encourage anyone to contact police on 111 in an emergency or 105 for non-emergency.”