15 Nov 2017

Rugby league: police promise 'crack down' on disorder

10:58 am on 15 November 2017

Auckland Council is scrambling to organise a family friendly event for Tongan rugby league fans to prevent a repeat of last week's mass disorder.

Tongan rugby league fans have been loud and proud.

Tongan league fans at the weekend's game. Photo: RNZ / Laura Tupou

Police arrested 53 people for bad behaviour, including for aiming fireworks at officers, in South Auckland's Ōtāhuhu after Tonga beat the Kiwis on Saturday in an upset-win in the rugby league World Cup.

There have been dozens of arrests for brawling and disorderly behaviour in South Auckland during the tournament as people took to the streets before and after games.

The council ruled out hosting a fanzone, but at a public meeting on last night it was decided a family-friendly event will be held in the town's centre.

Manukau ward councillor Efeso Collins said it was disappointing planning for the event had not been better.

"The community is leading this initiative because they want safety for their people, their players - and for the way in which they are perceived outside of Ōtāhuhu," he said.

Counties Manukau West area commander Naila Hassan said despite dozens of arrests over the past two weeks, police had been too tolerant of the disorder at Ōtāhuhu.

"The police need to crack down. We need to be a lot firmer because the behaviour so far has disintegrated in the last few weeks and we don't want that to continue," she said.

"We're going to be a bit firmer in terms of that poor behaviour and hopefully those that are causing the trouble will get the picture."

Auckland Tourism Events and Economic Development (ATEED) general manager destination Steve Armitage said fans at games and organised events had been "exceptionally well-behaved".

"The late-night behaviour in Ōtāhuhu town centre is highly unlikely to be prevented by operating fanzones in the build-up to and during the games," he said.

Mr Armitage said although the Tongan team's achievements were "remarkable", ATEED would not organise a celebration for an international team winning a pool match played outside of Auckland.

Tongan fan Fala Haulangi said it was unfair that funds were made available for other sporting events.

"It's funny, when America's Cup happens there's always money. Why? The rich palagis are there but us the poor islanders ... when it comes to us it's 'sorry there is no money'."

Tonga will play Lebanon in Christchurch on Saturday.

The family friendly celebration event will be held at the Ōtāhuhu town centre after the game finishes at 7pm. It will include a pedestrian parade, and is due to finish at 9pm.

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