Kirsty Wynn is a senior reporter at the Herald on Sunday.

Booze boats a public danger

A new council regulation requiring charter boats to have a liquor licence will create a dangerous "pub-like" environment when they are docked, say those opposed to it.

Up to 80 fishing charters and party boats on Z-Pier at Auckland's Westhaven Marina have been told they have to apply for a full liquor licence if they want to serve alcohol or allow guests to bring their own drinks on board.

But the owners of pier-side Bill Fish Cafe say the new requirement has not been thought through and will lead to moored boats acting like "mini-bars" right in front of their family restaurant.

"There is nothing to say they can only sell alcohol at sea so, when they dock, they can operate like a mini-bar on the water," Rod Limbrick said.

"There could be dozens of them right here in front of the restaurant.

"We already have drunk people waltzing in here using our toilets and this will make it worse, not better."

Limbrick said there had been fights and trouble with intoxicated people off the charter boats.

Police needed to charge people for being drunk and disorderly rather than encouraging more licensed outlets.

"The pier will, in effect, be like a whole lot of bars and it's not safe, there is no barrier to stop people falling in and no ladders for them to get out."

"The council will have to fence everything off."

Rob Abbott, Manager Alcohol Licensing at Auckland Council, said the crack-down was due to trouble at Z-Pier from drunk people leaving the boats.

"There have been incidents of intoxicated patrons falling overboard at docking time and we have also seen many cases of intoxicated patrons leaving boats at Westhaven and getting into fights, with some having to be taken to hospital.

"Invariably, these charter boats are not licensed for alcohol and operate like a party bus on the water. However they are not held responsible like party bus operators are."

The council confirmed, once boats had their licence, they were able to operate as a bar when docked as long as they had passengers aboard.

Conditions include hosts must provide three types of substantial food such as pizzas, pies, toasted sandwiches or wedges.

Food had to be displayed or advertised and a microwave or fryer, utensils and plates provided.

One charter boat owner, who did not want to be named, said the regulation would spell the end for most of the smaller charter boats.

"We are fishermen and skippers - not barmen. We are being forced into doing something we don't want to do."

Most of the boats were not "fit for purpose" because they did not have cooking facilities to provide food needed for a liquor licence.

"As a qualified skipper I keep people safe on the water.

"People bring their own food and a couple of drinks but I am not a barman and I don't want to be."

The man said police should make individuals responsible for their own drinking and behaviour rather than shifting blame to the skipper of a boat.

Those caught allowing people to drink on board their boat would be prosecuted by police.

The maximum penalty is three months imprisonment or a $40,000 fine.

People who hired a boat without a skipper can take their own alcohol aboard and consume it.

- Herald on Sunday

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