An unprovoked attack on a group of tourists in central Christchurch over the weekend could tarnish the city’s reputation with tourists, the city’s deputy mayor says.
Norm Withers said he was “deeply hurt and saddened” to hear about the attack by five men on a group of English and Danish tourists in Cashel Mall at 1am on Saturday.
The attack was apparently sparked by nothing more than their accents.
Six of the eight tourists were taken to Christchurch Hospital, including two with knife wounds.
One tourist remained in hospital in a stable condition last night and was expected to be released today.
In a second violent assault on Saturday morning, a 14-year-old Christchurch youth suffered swelling to the brain after what police said was a “savage and cowardly attack” in Linwood Park.
Four people were arrested in connection with that assault yesterday and were due to appear in court today. The 14-year-old was last night listed as stable but improving.
Withers said the city stood to lose if the perception spread overseas that it was unsafe, particularly at night.
“The next thing we’ll get tourist agencies recommending to bypass Christchurch and that’s the worst thing that can happen,” Withers said.
“People deserve to feel safe in our city and, as usual, it’s a small minority that spoil it for the rest of us and I’m fed up with it.”
One of the English tourists injured in the Cashel Mall attack, Daniel Sheehan, said he and a group of friends were having a last night out together in New Zealand before going their separate ways.
He said one of his friends was approached by five young men as they walked through Cashel Mall on their way to Oxford Terrace.
Sheehan said his friend fell to the ground and he went to help but was attacked himself.
He later said the men attacked them after saying, “They speak funny, they speak funny, they sound funny”.
His friend, who remained in hospital, had planned to travel to Bali yesterday.
He may now have to stay in Christchurch another fortnight, he said.
Sheehan suffered injuries to his ear, cheek and fingers.
His parents flew in from England to be with him yesterday because their son had been traumatised by the attack.
Detective Sergeant John Gallagher said the tourists were victims of an “unprovoked and cowardly” attack.
The offenders were believed to be in their late teens and early twenties.
Withers said Christchurch police did a “top job” but there needed to be a greater police presence on the streets at night.
In the later attack the 14-year-old and two friends were walking through Linwood Park at 4am when he was set upon by two males and two females aged between 17 and 18.
Withers questioned the role of the parents in that case.
“Where was he coming from and where was he going at that hour in the morning? The parents have a role to play here.”
Anyone with information about the attacks should call Detective Sergeant John Gallagher on 363 7400.