Council glad to have more control on sales

The Christchurch City Council welcomes legislation that gives it more power to control where and when alcohol can be sold, but says it could be up two years before any new restrictions come into force.

The Alcohol Reform Bill became law on Tuesday night. It gives local authorities the power to put in place their own policies to regulate the concentration of on and off-licences and the ability to dictate licensing conditions.

Before councils can take advantage of those powers they must develop a local alcohol policy (LAP) in consultation with the police, health officials and the community.

City council planning committee chairwoman Cr Sue Wells said the development of the policy would be a priority in the new year, but it was likely to take some time because of the consultative process.

Through the policy, the council could regulate opening hours for licensed premises, control the location of licensed premises and restrict the re-entry to bars in the early hours.

"We are now finally in a position to be able to progress it and look forward to starting on that early in the new year," Wells said.

Council strategic policy unit manager Alan Bywater said council staff had been carrying out background work on the policy with parties such as the medical officer of health, the police and Hospitality New Zealand. Now the legislation had been passed, the council would consult with the wider community.

The council had commissioned a random survey of 4200 people to get views on alcohol in the community. The preliminary findings would be available early next year.

While local authorities welcome the legislation, the hospitality industry says it is not the Christmas present they were looking for.

They are worried the new law will do little more than increase the compliance costs for struggling hospitality businesses and will have little or no effect on alcohol-related problems.

"Without measures such as making it an offence to be drunk in a public place, it is hard to see a change in the New Zealand drinking culture," Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said yesterday.

Canterbury District Health Board member Andy Dickerson said the law was a "dog's breakfast" and would not address the issues of binge drinking and alcohol abuse.

"‘Every year the Canterbury District Health Board spends tens of millions of dollars on both treating alcohol addiction and treating patients injured in violent attacks, sexual assaults, domestic violence and motor vehicle accidents directly or indirectly resulting from alcohol abuse," he said.

"Alcohol is also the leading cause of violent attacks on our nurses, doctors and other healthcare workers."

Dickerson said in his opinion the legislation was timid.

He wanted to see the purchase age for alcohol raised, pricing reviewed and tougher restrictions on the marketing and advertising of alcohol.

The Press