Police push for Sydney-style lockout for Wellington's downtown party zone
Bars in Wellington's party zone could be forced to lock out customers from 2am under the latest police plans to curb drunken late-night violence.
The city's top booze policeman is urging Wellington City Council to introduce a one-way door policy that would stop anyone entering a bar after a set time, such as 2am or 3am. Those already inside at the cutoff time would be allowed to stay until the 4am closing time.
Alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Damian Rapira-Davies said a similar policy in Sydney, where it was known as a lockout, had dramatically reduced violence and disorder since it was introduced in 2014.
However, the hospitality industry has complained that night-time foot traffic has dropped by about 80 per cent in Kings Cross and Oxford St, and more than 40 nightlife venues have closed.
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Rapira-Davies admitted such a policy "might stifle Wellington's vibrancy, but it would also stifle street crime".
"Not many good things happen after 3am. It's worth considering," he said.
Wellington city councillor Paul Eagle, who chairs the community, sport and recreation committee, said "nothing is off the table" in discussions of a proposed local alcohol policy (LAP). The committee would meet police over the coming months to get an update on alcohol-related harm and to look at a broader alcohol management strategy.
"We need to get the alcohol harm evidence and assess that in relation to initiatives like the one-way door. We're aware of it in an Australian context, but what we need to do is weigh that up in a Wellington and New Zealand context."
Tauranga and Whangarei already have lockout policies, and police are pushing for earlier closing times and lockouts in Auckland and Christchurch, which has a discretionary one-way door policy. Dunedin rejected such a policy last year.
During the drafting of Wellington's LAP in 2013, council officers considered a one-way door policy and ruled it out.
District licensing committees can make one-way door restrictions on a specific licence, an idea recently discussed at the liquor licensing hearing for the Cuba St bar Bad Grannies.
Hospitality NZ Wellington regional manager Dylan Firth said a lockout regime would be ineffective, and mounting evidence pointed to the failure of such policies.
Auckland DJ Rob Warner – part of nightlife advocacy group Dance Til Dawn – said police "have made no secret they think there are too many bars in Auckland and Wellington", and wanted to use one-way door rules to close more bars.
Neill Andrews, owner of Courtenay Place bar Ruby Rabbit, said bars in the nightlife hub had already seen patronage decline since 4am closing was introduced in late 2013.
Off-licence stores and supermarkets selling cheap alcohol to young people who often pre-loaded at home, on the streets and at house parties were a much bigger factor in alcohol harm than pubs and clubs, he said.
"It seems police are doing everything to destroy the Wellington culture of nightlife. If this goes the way of Sydney, it will keep people at home and add to the already overwhelming statistics of alcohol-related harm occurring in that environment."
New South Wales central metropolitan region commander Assistant Commissioner Mick Fuller said the lockouts, combined with effective police enforcement, had "seen a significant reduction in alcohol-related crime and anti-social behaviour in the Sydney CBD and Kings Cross entertainment precincts".