A group of ingenious New Zealanders managed to get around a local alcohol ban by creating an island in “international waters”.
Well, not really. The island was actually built inside a local estuary not even a mile from the coast. But it still managed to get around a local drinking ban that prevented anyone in the New Zealand town of Whangamata from drinking publically during New Years.
Whangamata has a drinking problem – or more accurately, it has a drunk tourist problem. The town receives thousands of visitors annually to ring in the new year, and some of them get a little out of hand. After two straight years with over 100 arrests for public intoxication between them, local politicians decided they’d had enough and banned drinking on the public holiday.
That didn’t sit well with Leon Hayward, who told TIME how he decided to get around the drinking ban. “We thought it would be a good laugh and the drinking ban would be a grey area if we were on our own island.”
Along with five helpful friends, Hayward built a sandbar in the middle of Tairua estuary in the Coromandel Peninsula. It took six hours to create, and after they were finished they topped off their island in the sun with a picnic table and an icebox. Later that evening they toasted their hard work with brews while watching the local fireworks display.
As for claiming the island was in international waters to get around the ban, that didn’t really fly with the town’s Mayor, Sandra Goudie, but she appreciated the can-do spirit on display from her constituents. “That’s the one thing I absolutely love about the Coromandel: the inventive nature of the people. It’s about creativity, the legal reality is somewhat different,” she told the New Zealand Herald.
The group managed to get away with their little act of political defiance (and public drunkenness) without anyone getting arrested or fine. According to the local police commander, John Kelly, they probably weren’t in much danger of that anyway.
“That’s creative thinking – if I had known that I probably would have joined them,” he told the Herald.
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