Queenstown crowned booze capital with intoxicating tales aplenty

Queenstown Lakes District is the alcohol capital of New Zealand, with more licensed premises per capita than any other area.

A Drink Safe Workshop in Queenstown heard yesterday that between 1996 and 2006, the number of off-licence premises in New Zealand rose 56 per cent and on-licence premises increased 33 per cent.

Figures show 303 of the 14,617 licensed premises in New Zealand are in the Queenstown Lakes district, which includes Wanaka, Arrowtown, Frankton, Queenstown, Glenorchy and Kingston.

It has 220 on-licence premises, 70 off-licences and 13 club licences. With a population of 22,956, that means more than one licensed premises for every 75 residents - the highest ratio in New Zealand.

The Drink Safe Workshops being held in Queenstown and Wanaka provide free training for all bar, door, restaurant and off-licence staff and managers, and are run by the Invercargill police and the Queenstown Lakes District Council.

Sergeant Keith Newell of the Queenstown police liquor licensing section said Queenstown was the only centre in the South Island where Project Carv (Curbing Alcohol-Related Violence) was in action.

In Queenstown, about 70 per cent of all incidents police attended were a result of intoxication, he said.

"There are assaults, there are beatings, we have the occasional stabbing ... there are females [who] are vulnerable, there are spiked drinks," he said during the workshop. "Don't be ignorant and say it doesn't happen here, because it does."

Mr Newell said 70 to 80 per cent of people in the police cells at any given time were drunk.

"That's what it is. They're either chopped, very chopped, or out to lunch completely."

* Queenstown police have a new form of crime on their hands - karaoke rage. Officers were called to the Altitude Bar about 12.20am yesterday after two female English tourists became embroiled in a fight over who was the better performer.

It appeared one of the tourists had hurled a microphone at the other after taking exception at being "out-gunned" in a karaoke competition.

"The police went down there and the two shook hands and made up," said Constable Chris Blackford. "It's the first karaoke rage incident I have ever heard of in 25 years [policing]."

- OTAGO DAILY TIMES

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