Police hope 'booze tickets' will slow drinkers down
Booze-fuelled bad behaviour in bars and cars will soon cost Wellingtonians more than a hangover.
Police are about to gain powers to slap drinkers with "boozing tickets" carrying fines of between $250 to $2000 for behaviour that falls foul of new liquor laws.
The changes due to come into effect from Wednesday mean bars throughout the country will not be allowed to stay open beyond 4am.
Police will be able to issue $250 infringement notices to people caught drinking in liquor ban areas - even if they are inside parked cars - and to patrons drunk enough or young enough to be ejected from a bar.
Under-18s would be fined if caught buying booze or possessing it in public, using fake IDs, or being in a bar without supervision. Larger fines would apply to people who supplied them with alcohol.
Police wanted to see New Zealanders drinking more "maturely", prevention manager Inspector Terry van Dillen said.
"The majority of people in town are there to have fun and enjoy themselves. But then most of those people, by 4am, have headed off and it's the ones left over that concern us.
"If you're going to come out and drink on the streets and think you're going to get away with it, you've got another think coming."
Police could not previously fine "pre-loaders" for drinking inside cars in liquor ban areas, he said.
They were able to issue trespass notices only in commercial areas.
With their new powers, police planned to target people boozing in hot spots such as New World Chaffers Park car park.
Meanwhile, authorities are preparing themselves for crowds of drunk revellers to hit the streets in the first weekend after the law changes.
Wellington City Council predicted a crowd of thousands could pour out into the streets around Courtenay Place in the early hours of next Sunday.
A total of 37 bars in Wellington currently hold late liquor licences and will be affected by the change.
The scale of the expected morning rush-hour would depend on how many people were still in the bars at 4am, council spokesman Richard MacLean said.
"It's a pretty hard one to calculate. It could get into the four figures, depending on how many people are in the party mood."
Ratepayers will be paying to get those revellers home safely.
They will be footing a $20,000 bill for extra transport, security guards and Wellington Free Ambulance's triage centre, which closed in June, will be revived this weekend for the weeks leading up to Christmas.
- The Dominion Post