Do you think people should be fined for being drunk in public?
Bars in Wellington's "swillhole" will have to shut up shop no later than 5am, and supermarkets and bottle stores will have to close their doors at 11pm under Wellington's new alcohol management strategy.
Wellington City Council's strategy and policy committee approved the proposed strategy for final council sign off at a meeting today, marking almost the last step in months of debate.
The changes proposed include maximum off-licence trading hours of 7am until 11pm, maximum on-licence hours of 7am to 5am, and a plan to investigate other ways to keep Wellington safe and vibrant.
The changes settled on were much more liberal than the first proposal by council officers, which recommended entertainment precincts in Courtenay Place and Cuba St, with more restricted conditions and opening hours for venues outside of the two areas.
Councillor Justin Lester said Wellington had started to develop a "drinking strip" in Courtenay Place, while Auckland and Christchurch had begun to move away to a more sophisticated, boutique style of social areas.
To combat it, the council needed to further investigate a regional approach to making Wellington a safe but vibrant entertainment destination, he said.
When the Law Commission gave central government its recommendations on alcohol reform, it opted to avoid dealing with many of the options put forward such as lowering the drinking age and liquor advertising.
"What they did do was look at alcohol accessibility, and that's the lemon we were given...Just because government has inertia on alcohol change, why can't Wellington come up with a good series of proposals to make the city a safe vibrant place to be?"
Mr Lester put forward an amendment to consider introducing enhanced regulatory and educational tools across the region, which could include a ban on public drunkenness, increased public advertising, educational support, or other concepts developed in conjunction with the community.
Councillor Iona Pannett said banning public drunkenness was a shirking of collective responsibility in order to put the issue on the shoulders of the individual.
"The police have pointed out that banning it would be ineffective. They don't stop people getting drunk and huge resources would be needed.
"I just think it's ridiculous. I want police to catch rapists and murderers and wife beaters, not people who get a bit drunk on the weekend."
The amendment passed, with Ms Pannett and fellow councillors Ray Ahipene-Mercer and Helene Ritchie in opposition.
Mr Ahipene-Mercer said social responsibility was an important factor in the alcohol debate, and the abdication of it had contributed to Courtenay Place becoming a "swillhole" over the last decade.
"I agree that social responsibility is an important factor in what is hopefully a journey towards something better. But it's like homeopathy - it promises a lot and delivers zero."
The debate had cemented that people knew there was a problem with alcohol abuse across the country, he said.
"There's been a recognition that Courtenay Place is an alcohol swilled heaven...coming back from that will be a long journey that hopefully personal responsibility will be the destination of, but it's not going to arrive tomorrow."
The finalised policy will now go to a full council meeting on September 25 for adoption.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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