Dubious booze crime honour for Christchurch

RACHEL YOUNG AND LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 25/04/2013

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Christchurch has more alcohol-fuelled crime than any other policing district in New Zealand, except for Counties Manukau.

At a full Christchurch City Council meeting yesterday, Canterbury district commander Superintendent Gary Knowles told councillors that in March - not normally a busy month for police - 276 people had been taken into police custody in Christchurch because they were intoxicated.

Another 297 had been apprehended for disorder offences relating to excess alcohol consumption.

Eighteen per cent of the district's policing budget was spent on dealing with offences involving alcohol.

The council is working on a draft local alcohol policy (LAP) for Christchurch - a provision of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

"The local alcohol policy is the biggest crime-prevention tool that will occur for generations," Knowles said.

The draft LAP allows the council to regulate aspects of liquor-licensing, such as opening hours for licensed premises, controlling the location of licensed premises and imposing early morning re-entry restrictions on bars.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said the LAP would make a difference to what happened in the streets.

He said alcohol-related issues cost the Canterbury District Health Board between $60 million and $70m a year.

By having a one-way door policy after 1am, closing at 3am and off-licences closing at 9pm, it would help to encourage people to head out earlier, which would cut the amount of time for preloading, he said.

"Therefore, we have safer alcohol consumption."

Humphrey said the off-licence opening time in the draft LAP should be changed from 7am to 9am.

He said this was an opportunity for Christchurch, which exemplified the need for alcohol reform, to get it right.

Hospitality New Zealand Canterbury Branch president Peter Morrison said the preliminary draft LAP was "flawed".

The association was strongly opposed to the draft plan.

Morrison said the city was not the same as it was before the earthquakes.

He said earlier closing times and one-way door policies would not help create a vibrant city.

"We will be prepared to challenge this to the highest level," he said.

Knowles disagreed.

"Long trading hours and increased access to alcohol does not equate to a vibrant city," he said.

Planning committee chairwoman Cr Sue Wells said the preliminary draft provided an important starting point for what was an incredibly important piece of work.

The planning committee will now work with stakeholders and staff to create a draft LAP, which will be presented to the council next month.

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Once the draft LAP is finalised, it will go out for public consultation.

Police want the LAP to include:

- 3am closing for inner-city bars.

- A one-way door policy from 1am.

- 1am closing for suburban bars.

- 9pm closing for off-licences.

- The Press

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