Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

End of BYO at the races? Police say law on 'bring your own' at races is a 'key issue' in cutting alcohol-related harm

Punters at the Ellerslie Boxing Day races in 2016. The event is no longer BYO. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Nick Reed.
Punters at the Ellerslie Boxing Day races in 2016. The event is no longer BYO. New Zealand Herald Photograph by Nick Reed.

Boozed-up Aucklanders and Wellington red tape shouldn't stop people in other communities enjoying a glass of their own alcohol at the races, a South Island mayor says.

A briefing to Police Minister Paula Bennett reveals police have identified legislation as it relates to "bring your own" alcohol at race meetings as a "key issue" in addressing alcohol-related harm.

Bennett's colleague, new Associate Justice Minister Mark Mitchell, is set to review New Zealand's alcohol laws, including BYO at races and other events.

Duffers Creek wins the Kumara Gold Nuggets at Kumara Race Course, West Coast in 2016. GREYMOUTH STAR
Duffers Creek wins the Kumara Gold Nuggets at Kumara Race Course, West Coast in 2016. GREYMOUTH STAR

For many communities the days of bringing your own beer or wine to race meetings are over, with BYO at races in Auckland and other centres scrapped after alcohol-fuelled incidents.

However, Westland Mayor Bruce Smith has vowed to keep the annual Kumara Nuggets race meeting BYO - saying bad behaviour in Auckland and "Wellington red tape" meant that was becoming increasingly difficult.

"For 134 years families on the coast have gone to the Kumara races. They take a chilly bin, they take a hamper, and they sit around the racecourse. They have a glass of wine sitting in the sun," Smith said.

"Our communities right up and down the coast are really focussed on alcohol and drug abuse. Those things are no good for a community. But we are not going to allow a bureaucratic bit of red tape based in Wellington to stuff our events up.

"If they want to outlaw it [BYO], what it will do is kill the Kumara races. And where is the benefit? Tell them to stick to Auckland and tidy the mess up up there and leave us to ourselves."

The races are held each January. The Kumara Racing Club applied to the Westland District Council for a licence last October, but was told it would have to meet a number of new requirements.

After meetings with the council, Crown health and Police the club eventually got a licence, but was prevented from advertising the meeting as BYO and told to hire more security - a step that pushed the entry fee from $10 to $15.

In the end, bad weather saw this year's event cancelled. But Smith said various agencies were imposing too many restrictions on such events.

The most recent races attracted about 6000 people with no major problems, he said. The races and other major events like Hokitika's Wildfoods Festival were essential both in terms of the West Coast economy and community spirit.

"These events either need to be classified in a different way, or the interpretation of the current legislation needs to be interpreted in probably the way Parliament would have liked it to be interpreted."

The briefing to Bennett states Police would soon brief her on "opportunities for further reducing drugs and alcohol related harm" this month.

"Key issues Police has identified include barriers to community participation into licensing decisions, development of local alcohol policies, Anzac Day trading hours and the legislation as it relates to BYO at race meetings."

That briefing has not been delivered. A spokesman for Mitchell said alcohol laws, including BYO at races, "will be considered in the future", but could not provide a timeframe.

Inspector Paula Holt, prevention manager, said in a statement that legislation was not specific with respect to BYO and what was considered a "place of resort" for the consumption of alcohol.

Police considered that case law meant many events were likely breaching the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 if they allowed for BYO.

"BYO at larger scale events can pose an increased risk of harm from excessive drinking. Events where unlimited BYO occurs often requires significant police resourcing to monitor, and in many cases will be clearly unlawful," Holt said.

The law allowed Police to "mitigate the risk of scenarios where excessive drinking occurs on a large scale".

"That said, Police does not seek to interfere where there is well-established evidence of well-run, community events and little or no track record of alcohol-related harm."

Holt said Police enforced legislation and any potential change was not a matter for it to comment on.

- NZ Herald

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