Bid for 1am closing time for bars fails

By John Cousins

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A bid to toughen up on closing times for bars in the Western Bay of Plenty has been rejected by Tauranga City Council.

Councillor Larry Baldock could only muster one supporter for his proposal to close most bars at 1am instead of the planned 3am.

Yesterday's council meeting was deciding whether to endorse the joint efforts of the Tauranga and Western Bay District councils to rewrite local alcohol rules.

Cr Baldock spent nearly 10 minutes trying to persuade the council to tighten closing hours but his efforts were largely in vain, with the final vote going 9-2 against him. His lone supporter was Councillor Tony Christiansen.

The Local Alcohol Policy now needs the support tomorrow of the Western Bay District Council before it goes out for public consultation.

Cr Baldock said that instead of listening to the evidence from the police, health authorities and others who were concerned about the harm caused by alcohol, the two councils had come up with a more permissive draft policy. He said they had been too ready to listen to the hospitality industry.

"What we have does not reflect the wishes of the community. We should get the draft as close as we can to what the community is wanting."

Cr Baldock called for a maximum closing hours for all on-licensed premises of 1am, except for the Tauranga CBD where it should be 2am.

"How we came up with 3am I don't know."

He feared that it would only be a matter of time until the authority which issued licences to hotels and taverns allowed a 3am closing time for a bar outside the CBD.

The Strand should remain as the city's entertainment zone for those who wanted to be out late at night.

Councillor David Stewart said he agreed with a lot of what Cr Baldock said but they had been through a democratic process and to pull the draft policy apart and start relitigating it would not do them any good.

He said there was reason and logic on both sides of the arguments, which was why it was a draft that was going out for public submissions. "It is counter-productive to relitigate it now."

Cr Stewart was sure they would get the right answers once the draft policy had been through the submissions process.

Councillor Bill Faulkner said society would continue to have problems with alcohol until binge drinking was addressed, no matter what they decided.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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