Tighter control on booze backed

Most Cantabrians believe there are too many bottles stores in Christchurch and more than enough convenience stores selling alcohol, a city council survey has revealed.

Preliminary survey figures show that 58 per cent of locals feel there are too many liquor stores in the city, while 78 per cent think there are too many convenience stores that sell alcohol.

About 4200 Christchurch people were chosen at random and invited to complete the survey, with about 1700 taking part.

Other findings included:

Most people feel bottle stores (55 per cent), bars (58 per cent), and convenience stores (67 per cent) in the central city should have shorter hours to sell alcohol.

Sixty-two per cent want suburban convenience stores to have less time to sell alcohol, while 49 per cent want the same for suburban bottle stores.

The one-way door restriction barring new entries to a bar after 3am was backed by 83 per cent of those surveyed, including 63 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds.

Fewer than 9 per cent support increasing hours for any type of licensed premise in the city.

Canterbury medical officer of health Alistair Humphrey said he was pleased by the survey's findings, which showed residents understood the problems caused by easy access to alcohol.

Humphrey said "pre-loading" with alcohol before heading to bars caused major problems, and was responsible for a significant number of emergency admissions late at night.

"They're not just cuts and bruises; we see patients with serious injuries that require intensive care or serious rehabilitation, so it's not a wise use of our resources to allow people to consume so much alcohol."

Liquorland chief executive Rod Gibson said he was not surprised about the findings, given high-profile coverage of the issue during debate on alcohol legislation.

He said there was "a lot of competition" among liquor stores, and his company complied with legislation on the location of outlets.

The council's planning committee yesterday discussed the figures while considering whether to fast-track the development of a new local alcohol policy before October's local body elections.

The policy is being revised after Parliament passed legislation giving councils greater powers over the conditions for liquor licences.

Council senior policy analyst Adair Bruorton said it was important to develop the policy quickly, with bar owners waiting for the new rules before making a commitment to rebuild in the central city.

"They want some certainty, because they want to know whether it will be worth their while to come back in and if they're going to be profitable."

Council strategy and planning general manager Mike Theelen cautioned against making too much of the survey's preliminary results, saying the findings were still being analysed.

The Press