Residents oppose new liquor store

EMMA HORSLEY
Last updated 12:00 06/12/2012

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The message to Highbury residents was clear - don't give up and keep fighting to keep a liquor outlet from opening up on the corner of Botanical Rd and Tremaine Ave.

More than 100 people attended a community meeting called by Palmerston North city councillor Billy Meehan at Somerset School last night, with most against a Big Barrel liquor outlet opening up in the old Mobil petrol station site.

Many people got to their feet to give emotional testimony on how they felt about the application for a new booze outlet.

Some came out in favour of Baldeep Dhillon, who has applied to open the outlet, saying he ran a good operation and took security measures to ensure drunk people were not served and trouble was kept to a minimum at his other outlets. But an overwhelming majority took to their feet and said they were concerned for the future of Highbury people if the application was successful.

Street Van organiser and city councillor Lew Findlay said the community should not roll over.

"Don't think it's a done deal or a fait accompli. Write letters to the prime minister, the local MP, the paper. If you keep the pressure on, people will listen to you."

Cr Findlay said liquor outlets were pushing to open up in suburbs to try to beat a law change due next year that would give local government power over how many liquor stores a city has and where they go.

"It's not coincidence, it's them trying to beat the system."

He said most licensed operators did a good job, but he could not think of anywhere else in the city where so many liquor outlets were so close together.

Issues around increasing alcohol consumption were voiced, with many saying the Highbury community was more vulnerable than others and needed fewer, not more opportunities to buy alcohol.

Rick Kennedy said people would buy alcohol wherever they wanted, so it made no difference if there was one or four outlets at the same intersection. He remarked that several fast food restaurants were all opening up in a row on Rangitikei St.

Traffic congestion was also raised, with residents concerned the business would make the roundabout harder to negotiate, but many people said the traffic would be a problem whether there was new retail there or not and it was impossible to say no to all potential retail options at the site.

Fraser Greg was concerned people with alcohol problems would not be as easily identified if they had more outlets to go to.

"It's a lot easier to disguise a booze problem when you can spread your custom around several places."

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I S Dhillon and Sons has outlets in Tremaine Ave, Princess St, Summerhill and in Feilding.

Cr Meehan said he was extremely pleased with the turnout and it showed the community was united in not wanting another liquor store in the area.

- Manawatu Standard

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