Is it a good move for Christchurch for local authorities to have greater power over where and when alcohol is sold?
Police are pushing for tighter rules on where and when alcohol is sold in Christchurch.
They say too much police time is being wasted on dealing with alcohol-related offences and want to see tighter regulations on both opening hours and the location and concentration of liquor outlets.
Police are working closely with the city council on a new alcohol policy that will take advantage of the Alcohol Reform Bill.
The bill, which is now before Parliament, gives local authorities greater powers to control where and when liquor is sold.
The bill replaces the liberal and centralised licensing system that led to a threefold increase in liquor outlet numbers since 1989, with a more effective and localised system.
It means that for the first time in more than two decades local authorities will have the power to put in place their own policies to regulate the concentration and location of on and off-licences and the ability to dictate licensing conditions.
To take advantage of the greater powers given to them under the new legislation, councils must develop a local alcohol policy (Lap) in consultation with the police, health officials and the community.
Council staff recommend the council begin preliminary work on that policy immediately, even though it is likely to be another couple of months before the bill is passed.
The council's move to have more say over where and when alcohol can be sold follows revelations that alcohol-related injuries and illnesses cost Canterbury's health system about $63 million a year.
A report released by Berl Economics shows that in 2006, Canterbury's healthcare costs from alcohol were $38.8m.
Last year they were $62.8m.
It is also timely as the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes have caused changes to the location of many licensed premises in Christchurch.
City council figures show 45 per cent of central-city licensed premises are closed because of damage or demolition or because they are still within the red-zone cordon. In suburban areas, 25 per cent of premises have closed because of damage or demolition.
Throughout the city, about 100 premises are holding off renewing their licences because of issues over insurance or building conditions.
Council planning committee chairwoman Cr Sue Wells said it was important the council moved "swiftly and properly" to exercise its new powers under the bill as there was strong community support for tighter regulation of pubs and alcohol outlets.
"People have wanted more ability to control where licensed premises are but we haven't had the ability to control that, with the Sale of Liquor Act being the way it was."
She said the policy could set restrictions on where alcohol premises could be located, but the council alone could not solve all the alcohol issues in the community.
"We have certain areas of influence, but the actions of the council alone will never solve the issue of problem drinking in New Zealand," she said.
Canterbury police operations manager Inspector Craig McKay said police were keen to see the Lap developed quickly as about 30 per cent of offences were alcohol-related.
Police wanted to see consistent trading hours across the city and tighter rules on the location and concentration of liquor outlets, he said.
Justice Minister Judith Collins said yesterday that the Alcohol Reform Bill would help drive a change in New Zealand's drinking culture.
"One of the key areas that the bill addresses is easy access to alcohol," she said.
"We buy it in corner stores, bottle stores and supermarkets - often around the clock.
"The bill will stop the proliferation of alcohol outlets and 24-hour trading by making it harder to get a licence. Local communities will be able to . . . cap the number of new alcohol outlets in areas that have reached saturation point."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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