New Zealand

Police investigate 'shocking' attack on Rotorua hot pools visitors

19:47 pm on 21 December 2020

Warning: Graphic image may upset some people

A man holidaying at Rotorua's hot pools has been left with a broken bone and bruises on his face after an attack.

Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

The Wellingtonian, who did not want his name used, was with his friends who had come from across the country to bike in Rotorua over the weekend.

He said six of them decided to go to the thermal pools to relax after a long day of biking on Saturday, but it was close to 11pm and many of the businesses were closed so they went to a wild pool close to Wai-o-Tapu Thermal Wonderland.

There was another group of seven or eight men and women nearby in the pool, according to the man.

"We thought they were a family so we didn't think there would be any issue ... They were chatting and we were also chatting," he said.

He said after about 20 minutes, when some people from the other group started to leave the pools, three men came towards him and his friends.

"They were holding alcohol bottles. They started to swear at us ... I can't hear them clearly. They just said 'talk to me'. I said we can leave if they don't want us there, but they didn't allow us to go," he said.

He said four of his friends ran away to the shore while being chased by some of the men.

He and another man were unable to leave the pool.

"The [punches] lasted for 15 to 20 minutes, I was knocked out in the water," he said.

Three of his friends ran to hide in the woods while another friend was pulled off the van when he was trying to drive away in - he said he ran barefoot to State Highway 5 and eventually one car stopped and helped him to call police.

"Five other cars have gone past," the man said.

The man said even after he and his friend got out from the pool, as the attackers were leaving, one member got out the car and punched them again.

The man said he suffered a minor facial fracture and would continue getting treatment in Wellington.

The man who was attacked at the Wai-o-Tapu thermal pools was left with injuries to his face. Photo: Supplied

He said the attackers also took away all their belongings in the car - including a mountain bike, surfing equipment and building tools worth more than $7000.

Having been in New Zealand for 18 years, the man said he had never experienced anything like the attack.

"It never happened before. I've been riding mountain bike in Rotorua for more than 10 years, I've also been to this hot pool for more than 10 years. Nothing has happened like that ... our Christmas holiday was ruined."

Police said they were called to the Wai-o-Tapu thermal pools carpark about 11.50pm on Saturday to reports of a group of males assaulting a group of visitors to the pools.

The incident was defined as assault and theft, and referrals have been made to Victim Support, according to a police statement.

Detective Sergeant Anthony Colby said an investigation into the incident was continuing and officers were following strong lines of inquiry.

"This sort of incident is fortunately rare, but very shocking, and we are working as hard as we can to support the victims and to hold these offenders to account."