A party involving roughly 60 people was held in a Queenstown park on Sunday night, violating New Zealand's current Alert Level 4 lockdown protocol amid the COVID-19 outbreak.
It's believed the partygoers were predominantly tourists staying at Deco Backpackers, a hostel located next to Rotary Park on Queenstown's Lake St.
A police spokesperson confirmed that officers were informed of the party at roughly 5:45am on Monday.
"Police attended an address on Lake Street on Sunday and spoke to occupants about the Alert Level 4 requirements," the spokesperson said. "We've been advised that about 60 people were having a party at the address."
In a statement to Newshub, Area Commander Otago Coastal Inspector Olaf Jensen confirmed the gathering took place at Rotary Park.
"When police attended, the gathering moved inside to an accommodation provider," Jensen said.
"Police have engaged with the manager of the accommodation premises and provided advice on what the Alert Level 4 restrictions means and how they can be complied with.
"The manager was advised that people staying at the accommodation needed to stay in their allocated rooms and the room and the people in it were considered a bubble. The manager was also advised that a roster needed to be established for the use of any communal facilities."
During the Ministry of Health's daily press conference on Monday, Commissioner of Police Mike Bush berated the partygoers.
"They [the attendees] decided that was their own self-isolation bubble," he told reporters. "That's very poor advice [and] they've been strongly advised to break into much smaller groups.
"Under my definition, that's a mass gathering and they should cease."
When questioned by NZME, a person staying at Deco Backpackers claimed the 25 people staying at the accommodation considered themselves "one bubble" as they had been together for roughly three weeks.
The police callout was due to a noise complaint from neighbours and the stereo had been confiscated, he told the outlet.
Hostels and backpacker accommodation, including campgrounds, have been deemed as essential services and are permitted to remain open throughout the lockdown. However, they must operate under stringent protocols, including:
- only making contact with people staying in the same room
- closing common social and recreation areas
- split shift access to common areas.
On Sunday, NZ Police announced the establishment of a new online form for the public to report breaches of lockdown protocol. Shortly after, the website was inundated with New Zealanders eager to dob in those flouting the rules.
Prior to the Alert Level 4 lockdown, the Government imposed a two-week self-isolation period for anyone entering New Zealand. However, questions were raised about the wellbeing of tourists, many of whom had limited accommodation options for self-quarantine.
The Ministry of Health revealed that several tourists were to be deported for failing to cooperate with New Zealand's guidelines.
Only New Zealanders are currently permitted access to the country. Upon their arrival, any returning Kiwis who do not have a satisfactory self-isolation plan will be detained as part of stringent border control measures.
It is currently unclear whether the party attendees or hostel will face legal consequences.