Adam Cunningham, the National President of Hospitality New Zealand is worried that a push by police to freeze all new liquour licenses in Auckland risks damaging our night-time economy.

Last week, actor Sam Neill went on record to slam the New South Wales Government's recently implemented lock out laws, and the devastating impact they've had on Sydney's night-time economy.

"Sydney [in the 1970s] seemed to me to be the most vibrant place in the world, and I think a lot of the vibrancy has been sucked out of the place.

"Instead of making the streets safe; they've just stopped the streets," he concluded.

And he's right. Since the laws were implemented, footfall in Sydney's Kings Cross has plummeted by 82 per cent.

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Neill's comments will likely hit all-too close to home for many New Zealand hospitality operators, given the ongoing appeal from New Zealand Police to significantly tighten the terms of a number of regional Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) - all in an erroneous attempt to reduce levels of Alcohol Related Harm (ARH).

In Auckland, for example, Police are advocating a 1:00am lockout, a 3:00am closing for all bars, and, most damaging of all, a six-year freeze on all new liquor licenses in the Auckland CBD: a move which would be both draconian and worryingly anti-business.

All of this in spite of research indicating that bars and restaurants are actually part of the solution to ARH - where only 20% of liquor is sold (the rest by supermarkets and off-licenses), and just two per cent of alcohol-related assaults take place.

Bars provide safe, supervised and controlled environments for the responsible consumption of alcohol; it's when people move away from these premises that the trouble really begins.

The proposed terms would be a far cry from those stipulated by the Sale and Supply Alcohol Act back in 2012 - namely, a national default, 4:00am closing time, which was adopted in 2014, when the Auckland Council unanimously ratified the region's Provisional LAP (PLAP).

Despite a lengthy and rigorous vetting process, to ensure a balanced approach, Auckland Police are only now stepping forward to voice their objections to the current PLAP, leaving the fate of many bars and restaurants uncertain.

ROTORUA DAILY POST
19 Aug, 2016 4:57pm
4 minutes to read
All of this in spite of research indicating that bars and restaurants are actually part of the solution to ARH - where only 20% of liquor is sold (the rest by supermarkets and off-licenses), and just two per cent of alcohol-related assaults take place.

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Outside of Auckland, similar battles are being fought.

Wellington bars have found themselves being targeted one by one, with police threatening to oppose individual liquor licence renewals, unless bars agree to implement a one-way door policy.

Tensions have risen to the point where, earlier this month, Wellington City Council was forced to issue a warning to Police, asking them to refrain from using such tactics in their efforts to influence bar opening hours.

In 2013, Christchurch City Council (CCC) received over 3000 opposing submissions relating to their regional Local Alcohol Policy, and the 4:00 am default closing time - 74% of a total 4060, the most ever received on any single policy.

Now, after a three-year period where it seemed the voice of that majority was destined to be totally ignored, the CCC has finally signalled its intent to relax its proposed restrictions on bar and off-licence trading hours, under the PLAP.

As the voice of the hospitality industry, we find these tensions to be cause for both concern and disappointment.

These changes could have a devastating impact, with potential for reduced hours to contribute to a loss of up to NZ$49 million annually for the regional economy, and the axing of up to 1,000 jobs.

Tensions have risen to the point where, earlier this month, Wellington City Council was forced to issue a warning to Police, asking them to refrain from using such tactics in their efforts to influence bar opening hours.

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There's also the vital link between hospitality and our number one export industry - tourism - to consider.

In 2013, international tourists spent nearly NZ $1.6bn on food and beverages - nearly half a billion of which was pumped into Auckland's hospitality industry alone.

Figures from Statistics New Zealand show continued growth in the international tourist market - with upwards of 580,000 international visitors arriving in Auckland throughout Autumn 2016 (March to May), a 13 percent increase on the previous season.

As this market grows, so too does the potential impact on the economy if bars, and the wider hospitality industry, were to be hamstrung by these policy changes.

In 2013, Christchurch City Council (CCC) received over 3000 opposing submissions relating to their regional Local Alcohol Policy, and the 4:00 am default closing time - 74% of a total 4060, the most ever received on any single policy.

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It's imperative that high standards are maintained for those who work and live within these cities, and no one wants our nightlife to be marred by alcohol-fuelled violence, but there needs to be a balance between safety and entertainment.

Our major centres must be able to compete on an international stage, living up to New Zealand's status as a truly world-class destination - impossible without a thriving nightlife.

Across the Tasman, Sydney's night-time economy has been decimated, left a shadow of its former self, and unless we take a stand, our nightlife is in grave danger of following suit.

The Auckland PLAP appeal will play out through the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA), with hearings scheduled for February 2017.

Adam Cunningham is the National President of Hospitality New Zealand