Teuila Fuatai

Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Call for ban on new liquor stores

The policy comes after highly publicised problems with drunken patrons in the city. Photo / Dean Purcell
The policy comes after highly publicised problems with drunken patrons in the city. Photo / Dean Purcell

A two-year ban on new liquor stores in Auckland's CBD is being proposed by the council in its newly released draft alcohol policy.

The policy, which is open for public submissions until July 16, targets areas identified as at high-risk of alcohol-related harm, and comes after highly publicised problems with drunken patrons in the city.

Under the policy, three different sets of rules have been developed, with the toughest being implemented for licence holders in the city's trouble spots.

Auckland Council has identified these "priority streets/areas" by assessing the levels of crime and deprivation, relevant health statistics and the number of off-licence holders in areas which have significant levels of alcohol-related harm and have "at-risk populations".

The Alcohol Drug Association said banning new off-licences in the city centre and the main strips of 20 different suburban areas, as well as a reduction in trading hours of on-licence premises such as bars and restaurants under the draft policy, was a step in the right direction.

But the draft policy stopped short of imposing a crucial late night "one-way door" policy in city bars, said the association's chief executive, Paul Rout.

"There is value in a one-way door policy, say after 1am ... [because] you tend not to have intoxicated people spilling on to the streets and into another bar to get even further intoxicated and also it encourages people to come into the city.

"The longer people wait to come into town and go into a bar, the more time they're likely to spend pre-loading on cheap alcohol at home," Mr Rout said.

The draft policy also proposed a reduction in time on-licence premises could serve alcohol in priority areas, meaning patrons in central-city bars would not be able to buy alcohol after 3am, an hour earlier than the current regional close of trade time for on-licences.

Mr Rout said "very late" bar hours tended to encourage people to drink large amounts, "therefore cause more problems".

"The overall principal is by restricting the hours, you restrict the time that people can spend in town very late at night very intoxicated with all the attendant problems in terms of assaults and injuries and damage that occurs at that time of night," he said.

All off-licence holders would also have trading hours reduced under the proposed policy to 9am to 10pm. Currently, the national default hours are 7am to 11pm.

George Wood, chairman of the Auckland Council's regional strategy and policy committee, said the council wanted to "balance the need to minimise alcohol-related harm with the desire to have a vibrant, exciting, yet safe Auckland for residents and visitors to enjoy".

The Restaurant Association did not return requests for comment before deadline.

A spokeswoman for the Health Promotion Agency did not want to comment on the draft policy because the organisation would be making its own submission on the proposed rules.

Rundown on proposed new rules

• Areas and streets have been assessed by the council for risk of alcohol-related harm and crime.

• Three sets of rules have been proposed to enforce stricter policies in areas considered at-risk.

• Some of the areas proposed for tougher rules include Queen St, between Victoria St and Wellesley St, and the Fort St and Fort Lane intersection.

• A different set of rules has been developed for streets in the city centre, Ponsonby and Newton, which are not considered "priority areas". A third set has been proposed for the rest of Auckland.

Draft policy

• Two-year freeze for new off-licences in the central city and areas deemed to be at high risk of alcohol-related harm and crime.

• No new off-licences in small neighbourhood centres unless approved by a special committee.

• Implementing maximum trading hours of 9am to 10pm for all types of off-licences in Auckland. This is a reduction from the national default hours of 7am to 11pm.

• Changing on-licence trading hours, now 8am to 4am across the region, to:

1. 9am to 3am in areas deemed to be at highest-risk of alcohol-related harm.

2. 9am to 1am for the rest of Auckland.

3. Offering "best-practice" operators in large centres the chance to apply for an extension to trading hours of up to two hours.

Go online

To read the full draft policy and make a submission, go to shapeauckland.co.nz

- NZ Herald

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