Auckland Council accused of being 'fun police'

JOSH FAGAN
Last updated 15:37 25/08/2014

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A panel member overseeing Auckland's Local Alcohol Policy has questioned whether the council are acting as "the fun police".

Glenn Wilcox, of the Independent Maori Statutory Board and the only non-councillor on the panel, told a forum discussion today the alcohol policy would affect young people being able to go for a night out.

"I know when I was younger I'd have a few wild nights," Wilcox told the round-table discussion group.

"The question we have to look at is 'are we being too harsh on young people?'

"Are we turning into the fun police?"

Auckland Council's Local Alcohol Policy has proposed tougher controls on where and how alcohol can be sold. It includes plans for 3am closing of on-licence venues in the city or Ponsonby and a two-year freeze on any new off-licences in the city.

More than 2600 people sent in written submissions and about 400 indicated they wanted to speak at the public hearings, which began this morning and will continue over the next month.

Feedback came from a mix of residents and stakeholders, who raised concerns relating to binge drinking and violence, to the impact on businesses and decline of the city's vibrant late-night culture.

Shayne La Rosa said his Kingsland function venue, Shooter's Saloon, was in danger of losing 50 per cent to 70 per cent of its income if the changes came through.

The policy would punish well-managed bars, La Rosa said.

"I agree we've got to find a balance but I don't believe on-licences are the problem," he said.

"Inside the venues we've got 18-year-olds learning how to drink responsibly and encouraged to drink in moderation.

"Outside, young people have parties on the street, in parks, people's houses, they spew, they leave rubbish, they cause all sorts of havoc.

"A lot of that harm is coming from people preloading."

Pack & Company owner Sam Ansley also argued the "broad brush" approach was unnecessary.

His business runs 25 bars in Auckland and Wellington, which he said were regularly scrutinised by police and the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.

"We have stringent controls in place already," he said.

"I'm not averse to change but we can't make policies based on assumptions."

CBD resident Michael McKeown said he wanted to speak on behalf of the more than 40,000 residents who lived in the centre of the city.

Rubbish, broken bottles, public urination and vomit were all regular additions to his street, he said.

"Residents have rights too," McKeown said. "There's too much of this sort of violence and mayhem happening in the central city.

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"I frankly don't think that it's the problem with the licensees. It's the behaviour of the people who have had too much to drink outside the venues."

The policy has earmarked changes for where new off-licences can be approved and when supermarkets and bottle shops can sell alcohol.

A provisional policy is due to be released in November before being enforced next year.

- Stuff

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