By FRANCESCA MOLD
Two of the last bastions for New Zealanders with a fear of the demon drink have crumbled after nearly a century.
Mt Eden and Roskill residents have shown a dramatic change of heart by overturning a ban on liquor outlets that they had clung to since 1905 in the belief that it created a unique community focused on family values.
Their decision was revealed after special votes from last month's general election were counted, and follows similar action by residents in Wellington's Tawa electorate. Voters in Grey Lynn overturned the "dry" rule in 1996.
Final figures show 6776 Mt Eden residents voted for their district to become "wet," compared with 5232 who wanted to continue the ban.
The margin in favour of remaining dry at the 1996 election was 781 votes.
The swing was more dramatic in Roskill, with a 4481-vote dry margin in 1996 turning into a 1000-vote margin for restoring liquor licences.
The law change will not come into effect in Roskill and Eden until a poll is conducted in mid-March to determine whether the communities want sales controlled by licensing trusts or if they favour free enterprise.
The change is in some ways superficial because a handful of outlets had already obtained liquor licences within the dry areas by exploiting a loophole in the law relating to the manufacture of wine.
But for cafes such as GPK in Mt Eden, the turnaround could mean a big boost in business. Previously they were only allowed to serve alcohol with meals and were warned by the Liquor Licensing Authority for breaching that rule in October.
GPK owner Chris Waldegrave was ecstatic.
"It will be great for locals to be able to walk down the road to have a drink, instead of having to drive to Ponsonby."
However, the national president of the Christian Women's Temperance Union, Annette Paterson, a Mt Roskill resident, was disappointed. She said the unique image of the dry communities would be destroyed and readily available alcohol could damage families and increase alcoholism.
By FRANCESCA MOLD