Police cop booze ban broadside

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2013

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South Taranaki police came under fire at a council meeting yesterday to consider liquor bans.

Last year, the South Taranaki District Council called for submissions on a proposal for a blanket liquor ban in Patea and Opunake, and extended bans in Eltham and Hawera.

The council received only 15 submissions on the issue, with just three people venturing to the special meeting to face councillors.

One of those people was alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ivan Smith, but when he was unable to answer questions during his presentation, an upset Mayor Ross Dunlop let rip.

"You should be hitting us with statistics," Mr Dunlop said.

"I'm really annoyed about this."

When Mr Smith said he hadn't had time to fully prepare, Mr Dunlop hit back again.

"You should have. This is your job. You want this to be put in place and you're not batting for your point of view.

"Can you turn us around and give us some reasons why we should [approve the bans]?"

Mr Smith said the bans were needed across South Taranaki to give police the power to deal with drunken people before they became a problem.

"All I can give you is anecdotal evidence of incidents I have attended, and the majority of them were alcohol-related," he said.

"As for statistics, for alcohol offences for those particular areas, I just can't give them to you. We don't have specific statistics."

Councillor Bonita Bigham said they had to balance what police wanted and civil liberties.

"When we can't justify why we are going to make our decisions then that puts us in a precarious position," she said.

Ms Bigham said she wanted to know if there was scope to narrow the focus to known "hot spots" of drunken behaviour as opposed to blanket bans.

The inclusion of the entire Patea township and beach area has proven to be the most contentious change addressed in most of the submissions.

Te Runanga o Ngati Ruanui environmental law officer Shi-han Ngarewa said there was no evidence that could show links between drinking in Patea's public places and crime and disorder on the streets.

"Regulatory control must not be used lightly and must be directly connected to a particular issue or problem, when no other mechanism is available," she said.

Other proposed changes include extending the Hawera liquor ban area to McCallum Park, Beech Place Reserve and the BMX track, as well as extending it around the central business district to make a clear "square".

In Opunake - which has the ban in Tasman St fulltime and the beachfront during Christmas and New Year - the side streets, public areas and the clifftops above the beach will be included.

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The STDC will make its final decision on March 18.

- Taranaki Daily News

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