Bernard Orsman

Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Instant fines floated for city drunks

The days of 24/7 drinking in Auckland's central city may be numbered as police and local authorities look at ways to crack down on public debauchery. Photo / Dean Purcell
The days of 24/7 drinking in Auckland's central city may be numbered as police and local authorities look at ways to crack down on public debauchery. Photo / Dean Purcell

Instant fines for drinking in public and earlier closing times for bars are among the options to be considered by a mayoral taskforce to curb the central city's drunken, noisy and violent image.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown is today bringing together about 20 people from the police, inner city business, the hospitality industry, Maori and ethnic groups and the churches to consider ways of addressing anti-social behaviour.

The central city - Queen St and Karangahape Rd in particular - is gaining a dark reputation for alcohol-fuelled drunkenness, violence and profanity in the early hours.

Scenes highlighted in the Herald include a man leaning against a shop wall heaving and heaving again while being cheered on from passers-by and intoxicated women drawing stares and dire pick-up lines.

Last night, Mr Brown said it was fair to say that having an enjoyable and safe experience in the central city was a challenge at times as a result of excessive drinking.

"Serious assaults are down so we are succeeding at some levels, but there is still work to be done.

"I don't want to pre-judge what conclusions the taskforce will reach but there are real opportunities in areas such as licensing and enforcement and I am determined that we can do better. For the sake of our citizens and our visitors, we need to investigate all options," Mr Brown said.

In a bid to reduce drunken disorder, police have already teamed up with the Auckland Council to create and introduce a local alcohol policy after the Alcohol Reform Bill is passed this year.

Auckland City Central area commander, Inspector Andrew Coster, said actions stemming from the bill in the central city included targeting hotspots for pre-loading on alcohol and disorder around bars and nightclubs.

He gave the example of Galatos St, a small street behind Karangahape Rd, where people parked in cars to drink alcohol. That could be stopped, he said, by making the street permit-only parking for residents.

Another option was on-the-spot infringement notices for breaking the liquor ban in the central city. At the moment the police could only make a time-consuming arrest or issue a warning, said Mr Coster.

He said the biggest wins would come from having the right alcohol policies in place, the right expectations on licensed premises and reducing the number of drunk people who "migrated" to the central city to carry on drinking late at night.

Two ways of combating that were closing bars earlier and using one-way doors where people could stay in bars but not enter bars.

On a patrol of inner-city Auckland 12 days ago, Police Commissioner Peter Marshall commended the one-way door policy in the bill, which has already been implemented by some Auckland drinking spots who close their doors at 2am.

Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney, who is on the taskforce, said the default position of 24/7 drinking in the city could not continue.

Manhattan - the city that never sleeps - had a one-way door policy at 1am, he said.

"Bars need to understand that a 24-hour licence is a privilege and they have to qualify for it," Mr Swney said.

Eric Millet, who lives in an apartment in Durham Lane, just off Queen St, with his wife and 9-month old baby, said something needed to be done about the "generalised chaos" in the early hours from Wednesday to Sunday.

"We wake up on Sundays to pools of vomit and trails of pee," he said.

Mr Millet said the situation could be improved by bars and nightclubs operating in a more socially responsibly way, earlier closing hours and more police patrolling the central city.

- NZ Herald

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