Queenstown’s reputation for violence has raised fears that tourism may suffer not only in the southern town, but throughout the country.
Newly compiled police figures show one violent act for every 139 people in the southern tourist hub compared to one for every 202 people elsewhere in New Zealand.
The concern for the tourism industry is that some foreign tourists get wind of the alcohol-fuelled violence and avoid Queenstown, or New Zealand, altogether.
“It does put our national and international reputation at risk,” said Queenstown Lakes District mayor, Clive Geddes.
If Queenstown was not made safe for visitors “the damage to our reputation will be shared by us all”.
“You only need a couple of lines in guides like Lonely Planet that criticise your destination for that to have a significant impact on the way that people choose to travel.”
Mr Geddes said the community had been aware offending rates for certain types of crime were “substantially above comparative rates for other parts of New Zealand”.
Police figures showed 17 per cent of violent incidents took place on licensed premises in Queenstown, compared to 3 per cent elsewhere. Most violent offenders, 64 per cent, would be New Zealanders and male (87 per cent). Attackers were most likely to come from the booming construction industry.
In response to the violence, Queenstown’s 24-hour bar opening hours were being phased out and a “4am to 9am stand-down period” introduced.
Measures like new closed circuit cameras are also in the pipeline.
Tourism agency Destination Queenstown and the Tourism Industry Association, were both sceptical without seeing how police arrived at their figures, but agree perception is an important issue.
Destination Queenstown chief executive David Kennedy said he was gobsmacked by the figures, which seemed to come from an “inflammatory” method.
Constable Sean Drader, who compiled the figures for police, said his intention had not been to create fear, but dialogue.