'Unbelievable' shots fired close to Rotorua playground

5:36 am on 24 April 2017

At least a dozen people called 111 during a gang flare-up close to a Rotorua market and playground at the weekend.

Kuirau Park in Rotorua has a children's playground and a city market.

Kuirau Park in Rotorua has a children's playground and a city market. Photo: 123RF

Shots were fired between rival gangs on Saturday morning at Kuirau Park and a car was found soon after with bullet holes in it.

The confrontation happened near a children's playground, and the area was full of shoppers at the weekly market run by the Rotary Club.

Rotary Club president Noel Hill was there on Saturday morning.

He said police were quickly on the scene.

Stallholders spoken to by RNZ said said they weren't aware anything had happened until being told about it afterwards.

Mr Hill said it was unbelievable the shooting came so close to the children's playground, and said there may need to be closer monitoring in the future.

"That is a problem that that sort of thing happens close to where the children are.

"We'll just have to keep an eye on things and make sure we have close contact with the police if necessary."

City councillor Charles Sturt had many frightened residents phoning him over the weekend, some of whom told him they had been at the park and had ducked for cover.

"It's pretty disappointing because we as the council have spent a considerable amount of money at Kuirau park to make it a family friendly place, to have this happen in broad daylight and on a Saturday is just unbelievable.

Mr Sturt doubted it would put people off the area, though, and many families were at the park again on Sunday afternoon.

Detective Senior Sergeant John Wilson said police received around a dozen 111 calls about the incident.

"It's happened next to a children's playground, we have a market going, we have shoppers, we have families of small children, and clearly there was the recipe for disaster if one of these bullets had gone astray.

"Fortunately that wasn't the case but that was by luck more than anything else."

He said police had had no indications to suggest gang tensions had been rising recently.

"These things sometimes come to a head and there's clashes and this is one of them.

"It's just unfortunate that the location and the timing of when it's happened has been right in the public eye..."

A 27-year-old man was arrested and is due to appear in Rotorua District Court today.

Detective Senior Sergeant Wilson said witnesses had reported between four and 10 gang members could have been involved. Police are urging anyone who saw the incident or may have filmed it to get in touch.