A group of the country's most senior police officers have attacked plans to allow city bars to stay open three hours later than pubs in the suburbs, warning people will hop in their cars and head for the bright lights after drinking at their local.
They say it will result in greater drunken disorder, violence and road crashes, but a council discussion paper dismissed their suggestions for changing a booze-swilling culture as unjustified.
A deputation of Acting Assistant Commissioner Bill Searle, Auckland City District Commander Mike Clement and prevention manager Inspector Gary Davey met the council before it considered recommendations from the council's community safety committee.
Led by councillor George Wood, a former police manager, the forum proposed a closing time of 3am for bars in the CBD with a one-way door policy starting at 2am for both CBD and city fringe areas such as Ponsonby, Parnell, Takapuna, New Lynn, Albany and Manukau.
Maximum trading hours in the suburbs could be 8am to 1am.
But a council staff discussion paper which has gone out to local board members and liquor sellers says there is insufficient evidence to use a one-way door policy and CBD bars should be able to rage on until 4am.
Mr Davey told the council's regional operations and development committee that would encourage drinkers from outlying suburbs to jump in their cars and head for the CBD - where the potential for harm "is significant and real".
He told the Herald the one-way door policy, along with closure of non-CBD locations at 1am, would stop "migratory drinking". "It stops them finishing drinking at 1am and jumping in a car and heading to town ... If they want to drink in town then they will need to arrive before 1 o'clock."
"The key message [from police] is the new act provides opportunity to change drinking behaviour in Auckland so we can reduce harm caused by it - it will reduce the number of victims, the number of arrests, the number of people who get criminalised through drinking too much."
Auckland Medical Officer of Health Dr Denise Barnfather urged the council not to miss a chance to reduce harm by adopting a "weak and ineffectual" local policy. "There are now 53 studies looking at the impact of bar trading hours on safety outcomes and these show that increasing or decreasing hours in turn increases or decreases harm."
Committee chairwoman Ann Hartley said points would be noted and the new council should ensure that a wide section of the community had a chance to comment when draft proposals were ready in December or early next year.
Beating the boozers
CBD liquor trading options:
* 3am close, one-way door starting 2am - forum proposal.
* 4am close, no one-way door - council staff proposal.
* 3am close, one-way door starting 1am - police proposal.
- additional reporting: Andrew Koubaridis