Whanganui continues to crack down on alcohol and is poised to cut back the hours during which alcohol can be sold - alongside several other restrictions.
The proposed new law was adopted by Whanganui District Council's strategy and finance committee on Tuesday and will now go out for public consultation, before coming back to full council for final adoption.
It follows the adoption earlier this year of a renewed alcohol ban governing possession and consumption of alcohol in public areas around the central business district.
Under the proposed new local alcohol policy, Whanganui liquor outlets will have the hours they can sell alcohol pegged back by two hours to 9pm from 11pm, and their numbers capped to 22 outlets.
Other major changes will see sport and chartered clubs restricted to serving alcohol no later than midnight, two hours earlier than at present.
Pub and hotel hours remain unchanged at 2am, but will be required to invoke a one-way door policy one hour before closing, meaning patrons who leave the premises during that time will be unable to re-enter.
No new off-licenses will be allowed to open near sensitive sites, defined in the policy as early childhood centres, schools, marae and places of worship. The policy does not specify distances and that would be left up to the District Licensing Committee to determine based on the merits of each case, the committee was told.
Alcohol sales are currently governed by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 but territorial authorities have the power to implement their own local alcohol policy.
Council policy advisor Alex Staric told the committee Whanganui had significant levels of alcohol-related harm and that a local policy was warranted.
In an oral submission, police crime prevention officer Andrew McDonald said if alcohol was banned entirely - not a submission he was making - crime would fall between 15 - 20 per cent.
"We have a challenging community in relation to their dependence on alcohol," Mr McDonald said. "Alcohol is one of the five major drivers of crime."
Medical Officer of Health Patrick O'Connor said people drank more alcohol in the 1980s but also supported the policy. He spoke of increased alcohol-related hospital emergency department admissions at weekends and Whanganui having a higher per-capita number of bottle stores than the national average.
Paul Radich representing Countdown supermarkets argued for a 10pm restriction on alcohol sales from supermarkets - one hour less than current but one hour more than the 9pm restriction under the new policy.
Sue Stewart from ACC cited a 2013 local study that showed 99 percent of those surveyed thought Whanganui had either too many or enough liquor outlets.
Two councillors, Rob Vinsen and David Bennett, voted against the policy. Mr Vinsen said there was no evidence to support that restricting off-license sales to 9pm would have any beneficial effect, and would only penalise the average person. Current legislation was adequate, he said.
He further argued that several other councils which had adopted local alcohol policies faced legal actions and that it was prudent to await the outcome of those rulings. Legal appeals were noted as a potential risk by Mr Staric.
Councillor Philippa Baker-Hogan said the issue had hung around for four years and council should not be put off by potential litigation. "It's about leadership," she said.
Mayor Hamish McDouall said he supported the policy and looked forward to further submissions and making a final decision based on evidence.
For more articles from this region, go to Wanganui Chronicle