A move to ban more bottle stores from opening in Te Puke follows concerns at the number of outlets in one of the Bay of Plenty's lowest deprivation areas.
The issue of alcohol-related crime and crashes was raised in a Western Bay of Plenty District Council Policy Committee meeting today in which a draft Local Alcohol Policy was approved.
People will now have the chance give feedback on the draft policy, which is expected to be formally adopted next year.
The council proposes to break away from the existing policy it has shared with Tauranga City Council since it became operational in 2015. The policy was due for review this year.
In a report to the council, senior policy analyst Matthew Leighton said the aim of the policy was to minimise alcohol-related harm and to set requirements for licensing that were aligned to community views while addressing local character and issues.
Te Puke had 22 licenced premises. By comparison, Katikati and Waihī Beach/Bowentown each have 14, Te Puna and Ōmokoroa each have nine, Paengaroa has four, Pukehina has three and Maketū two.
According to the 2018 census, Te Puke had a population of 8,688, Katikati had 5,010 and Waihī Beach/Bowentown had a population of 3,621.
The proposed policy changes would mean a ban on any new bottle stores opening up in the Te Puke and Maketū ward area. It would also reduce maximum hours of sale for off-licence premises across the Western Bay district by making the cutoff 9pm instead of 10pm.
Leighton said police and the alcohol licensing inspector had already raised concerns about the availability of alcohol in Te Puke and there appeared to be a high level of alcohol-related crime in the area.
Police data relating to these concerns was made available to the council but not publically released. However, Leighton said in the report there had been 90 alcohol-related crashes in the district between July 2017 and June 2020, with a "significant cluster" in and around the Te Puke area.
The Te Puke area, east and west, are at 8 and 9, respectively, on New Zealand's Deprivation Index, which reflects socio-economic deprivation on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 representing the most deprived areas.
A Bay of Plenty medical officer said the alcohol outlet density of off-licence trading hours was of "particular concern", Leighton said.
The rate of hospital admissions with conditions "wholly attributable to alcohol" was higher in the Western Bay than the New Zealand average, with some areas of the district such as Te Puke being particularly high.
The policy introduces discretionary conditions which include those a District Licencing Committee could consider when deciding whether to approve or renew on-licences.
Some conditions include the provision of staff and/or security after 11pm, the provision of exterior lighting, the ratio of patron numbers with that of bar staff, and no shots or specific types of drinks to be served after a certain time.
Sue Peat, who owns Te Puke Super Liquor, told the Bay of Plenty Times she was interested to see what would come from the feedback.
"I do know there's a lot of chat about the proliferation of outlets. Not just in our town but with similar-sized towns.
Peat said she and her husband Ash Peat prided themselves on being responsible.
"We are pretty comfortable with what we run and all the checks that we put in place to make sure we are not causing an excess of harm to the community."
In feedback provided to the council, Foodstuffs North Island said extending the hours of sale from 7am to 11pm (instead of to 9pm as proposed) would provide flexibility for future growth. The organisation was not aware of any evidence that would justify the suggested reduction of hours.
Countdown said it had no concerns with the existing policy but would like supermarkets to be identified separately from bottle stores.
Te Puke Community Patrol said in its feedback that the number of licences for the area was "about right" but there were "far too many" bottle stores for its population.
This sentiment was echoed by Tauranga Budget Advisory Service and Poutiri Trust. The trust referred to local emergency accommodation being located above a bar, across the road from a bottle shop and across the road from a supermarket that sells alcohol as an example of the proliferation of outlets in a small area.
In its feedback, the Budget Advisory Service stated that as a social issue the location and availability of alcohol outlets alone could not be blamed for the damage alcohol caused in society.
"Individuals are free to choose how and when they drink but I see the council has a role in protecting the safety of others and in harm reduction through limiting the number of outlets, ensuring their locations are not near schools and/or childcare centres, and ensuring public transport options are available to avoid drink-driving."
In the meeting, councillor Grant Dally said he supported the proposal but noted that he would have preferred the lid on off-licences to adhere to the Te Puke township only rather than the entire ward area, which would affect Pukehina visitors in summer.
Mayor Garry Webber said the matter was now up to the community to determine how it will go.
The proposed policy will go out for consultation, with the council seeking feedback from November 5 to December 6, before a "have your say day" on December 14.
The new policy will likely be brought up in front of the council deliberation and adoption in March 2022.