Concerns over new Local Alcohol Policy

By Natalie Dixon

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Tauranga City Council has adopted a Local Alcohol Policy but there are concerns it will do nothing to curb booze culture.
Tauranga City Council has adopted a Local Alcohol Policy but there are concerns it will do nothing to curb booze culture.

Tauranga City Council has adopted a new alcohol policy, despite concerns the proposed plan will do nothing to curb booze culture.

The council yesterday voted to adopt the draft local alcohol policy, a joint project with the Western Bay of Plenty Council and the previous council.

The provisional policy would be publicly notified after January and no later than February 2014.

If no appeals were made against the policy it would be adopted 30 days after the public notification.

The plan includes a 500m no-go zone for licensed premises around schools, maximum trading hours for pubs and caps the number of off-licences.

It also allows the District Licensing Committee to issue licences, including the ability to police the number of shots sold, limit noise from an event and increase the number of duty managers present

However, Mayor Stuart Crosby said the policy was simply a "tinker around the edge" rather than a solution to binge-drinking culture.

"New Zealand's problem with over drinking is much bigger than this," he said.

"But this is a start and my view is we support it, the default issue of doing nothing and starting again is more of an issue to me.

"I think we should start clawing this alcohol problem back anyway we can."

He made it clear to councillors they could not make amendments to the draft policy document without starting the entire process, which began in March, all over again.

Cr Bev Edlin questioned why caps had been placed on the number of off-licences but not on licences in the region, while Cr Matt Cowley asked if some of the discretionary conditions would make it hard for smaller community groups to hold events.

Other councillors, including Cr Steve Morris and Cr Bill Grainger said the policy should have been more robust

Cr Morris called for an early review of the document which would have allowed council to make changes to it.

"I do not think this policy goes far enough," Cr Morris said.

"I would much rather the police and the DHB (District Health Board) were directed to solving crime and looking after people that really need it, rather than babysitting the minority with a drinking problem in our community.

"We could have been much bolder if this was our plan."

Cr Grainger said he did not think the previous council was hard enough in the draft stages of the document.

"Drinking is a major problem in our community and I do not think this will do much to change that or get to the root of the problem."

Cr Clayton Mitchell, who owns two Mount Maunganui bars, declared a conflict of interest and did not take part.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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