Community leaders in Kaikohe are calling for limits on the numbers and opening hours of liquor outlets, saying they contribute to crime, violence and poverty.
Church leader Mike Shaw said the big issue in Kaikohe was the easy accessibility of alcohol with five off-licences, three of which were open at 7am, in a town of about 4000 people.
He often saw people carrying alcohol home at 8am. "We know it's not for a quiet beer after work. It's for breakfast."
The town's tough stance coincides with statistics publicised this week which show that Northland has a higher ratio of alcohol licences - 50.3 per 10,000 people - than the North Island average of 34.2
Kaikohe's five off-licences for its 4100 residents puts it well ahead of the North Island average of eight off-licences per 10,000 people.
Mr Shaw also wanted tighter rules on where liquor outlets could be located.
New restrictions being considered by the Far North District Council would keep booze outlets away from schools, childcare facilities and churches, but he wanted that expanded to include parks and playgrounds.
On Marino Court a bottle store was next to a children's playground, a library and public toilets. The grassy square used to be a place families could relax but no longer felt safe. People used it for drinking and youths tried to persuade adults to buy alcohol for them.
Bottle stores were also a target for violent crime such as last year's gunpoint robbery: "My heart goes out to the owners, but do we need armed hold-ups next to our playground?"
The council is now considering feedback on its proposal for a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) aiming to give communities a say on how and where alcohol can be sold. Oral submissions were heard last week; councillors will make a decision on September 18. In total 98 submissions were made.
Mr Shaw said the number of licences should be capped at current levels or below.
Kaikohe has five off-licences, down from seven when the Kaikohe Hotel and RSA bottle store were still trading, and three on-licences.
He did not see why the draft LAP treated bottle stores and supermarkets differently, allowing the latter to sell alcohol from 7am. All off-licences should have the same 9am-10pm hours. On-licences were well supervised and not a problem.
A petition by Kaikohe identity Sean Reilly, calling for the community to have a right to limit liquor outlets, gathered 100 signatures in its first day. Mr Reilly wanted the council to bar alcohol from supermarkets and reduce bottle store hours to 9am-8pm.
In his submission, the council's chief alcohol licensing inspector, John Thorn, said impoverished Far North towns did not need more alcohol outlets opening in empty shops.
The LAP was a "golden opportunity" to address the issue, he said.
John Maurice, of Kaikohe's Bank Bar, said most problems stemmed from people drinking at home or in public places. He opposed a proposed one-way-door policy, saying it forced drinkers on to the street where there were fewer restrictions, and also questioned an "anti-commercial" rule allowing supermarkets to sell alcohol two hours earlier than off-licences.
"Members of this committee only need to be on the streets of this town between 7 and 8.30am to witness state-funded individuals walking the streets with boxes of beer and wine ..."
Mr Shaw, who leads the Kaikohe Church Leaders Forum and is on the advisory group for the Kaikohe Youth Action Plan, said the council was doing the right thing by consulting.
"But I think the general public has no idea that they can say 'We think five liquor stores is enough, we don't need more'."
The council was coming under pressure from the alcohol lobby not to tighten the rules he said.
Alcohol by numbers
• The number of Northland hospital admissions with "wholly alcohol-attributed" conditions increased from 369 in 2009 to 538 in 2013, or 5 per cent of total admissions.
• Kaikohe has the highest rate of wholly alcohol related admissions in the Far North with an annual average of 21-25 admissions per 1000 people aged 15 and over. Kerikeri had 16-20 admissions per 1000, and Kaitaia 11-15.
• Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, local authorities can create Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) to regulate the liquor industry. The Far North District Council has heard submissions on its draft LAP and will deliberate on September 18. Whangarei expects to have a draft LAP ready by the end of the year. Kaipara's commissioners will be considering the issue in coming months.