Tougher rules on alcohol 'magic'

ANNA PEARSON
Last updated 13:00 20/02/2013

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Nelson city councillors have voted to create tailored alcohol regulations for the top of the south, with options including a one-way door policy for bars and restrictions on licences.

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said it made sense to develop an overarching policy working alongside Tasman and Marlborough district councils.

"We can take into account the differences in our communities, such as urban and rural, and create schedules for certain areas as part of the overall policy," he said.

Police have welcomed the proposed changes as "magic".

Councils have the opportunity to develop alcohol policies following the introduction of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, and Nelson councillors voted in favour of developing one during a community services meeting yesterday.

The act gives councils the power to create policies that limit the location or density of liquor licensed premises near specific neighbourhoods, churches or schools.

They may also impose conditions on groups of licences, such as a one-way door policy. This rule allows patrons to leave premises, but not re-enter, after a certain time.

Councils may also restrict or extend the maximum opening hours set in the new act, which are 8am to 4am for on-licences, and 7am to 11pm for off-licences.

The policies must be developed in consultation with police, licensing inspectors and medical officers of health, and councils must consult with their communities.

Tasman district Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the TDC had been working on its policy for several months, which would come up for approval at an environment and planning meeting next week.

Mr Kempthorne said while each council would have its own policy, "the three will be aligned".

Nelson police have been cracking down on alcohol-fuelled violence and anti-social behaviour since the beginning of last year.

Nelson Bays police area commander Inspector Steve Greally said the crackdown had made the streets in the CBD a lot safer.

The council's decision to develop a local alcohol policy was "magic news", and a great follow on from other community initiatives aiming to make Bridge St a lot safer, such as the council-backed street ambassador scheme.

Mr Greally said people's behaviour had been influenced by a heavy police presence, with up to 40 police officers patrolling the Bridge St area on Saturday nights.

"We have increased our presence by anything up to 400 to 500 per cent. What we have managed to do over time is change the behaviour of patrons, licensees, and hold everybody to account," he said.

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"The behaviour of the licensees has improved dramatically. There are really only a couple of bars who are popping their heads above the parapet."

Mr Greally said flow-on effects of the crackdown included a reduction in alcohol-fuelled family violence and serious assaults.

He said he would welcome the introduction of a one-way door policy, if the council decided to go that way. The ability to control the location or density of licences was also a "very powerful" tool.

"If we have to impose bylaws or laws to make sure people are safe, then we have got to do it, because the alternative is victimisation."

Ron Taylor, who owns Little Rock on Bridge St and is the Nelson president of the Hospitality Association of New Zealand, said he did not see the need for more regulation.

"I definitely don't think it's needed with the way that we have

worked with police and everything like that," he said.

Mr Taylor also said there was no proof that one-way door policies actually worked in reducing alcohol-related harm, but the new policy was "just something we're going to have to work with the council on".

Nelson Bays Primary Health Organisation chief executive Andrew Swanson- Dobbs said the PHO supported anything that improved health outcomes, from plain packaging for cigarettes to restrictions on alcohol licences.

Developing an alcohol policy is optional for councils, under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, and the earliest they can adopt them is December 18.

District licensing authorities will cease to exist on that date, and will be replaced by new committees, to be chaired by a councillor or commissioner.

The committees will make decisions on all licences and managers' certificates, regardless of whether they are contested or uncontested, and the cost of each meeting will be recovered through licensing fees.

AT A GLANCE

Alcohol-related crime in Nelson city Alcohol was a factor in at least 39 per cent of offences over the last three years. Public place disorder offences have increased 36 per cent in the last three years: at least 77 per cent of those people were under the influence of alcohol. On average 250 people are arrested for breaching liquor bans each year. Nine people, on average, are arrested each week for drink driving. Most alcohol-related offending occurs on Friday and Saturday nights, and early Sunday morning. Source: Nelson police

- Nelson

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