DHB, police reaffirm their wish for Hamilton to have one-way door policy
The Waikato District Health Board backed by the police have renewed their support for a one-way door policy governing Hamilton's restaurants, bars, pubs and clubs.
But it could take more than six months before Hamilton City Council can revisit the idea.
The council submitted its Provisional Local Alcohol Policy, without a one-way door policy, to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority recently.
The authority won't be able to review the policy until August. Once completed, Hamilton City Council can consider introducing a one-way door policy.
Whangarei District Council approved a one-way door policy in 2015, which meant if people leave a licensed premises in the CBD after 1am, they could not re-enter that premises, or enter any other licensed premises.
The move was to prevent anti-social behaviour.
The Waikato DHB and police originally lobbied the council to introduce a one-way door policy and again wrote letters tabled to a council meeting recently asking for it to reconsider.
Hamilton city councillor and DHB board member Dave Macpherson admitted he has voted both to support and oppose the one-way door proposal.
When the topic first came into discussion, he voted against it but because problems around social behaviour and alcohol abuse haven't reduced, he is now leaning towards supporting the idea.
He believes there are some bars more troublesome than others and understands a one-way door policy effects responsible bar owners unfairly.
In a perfect world he would like to see earlier closing times for off-licence liquor stores or supermarkets as well as early, staggered closures for bars.
"There's got to be several measures to reduce the availability of alcohol. The problem in New Zealand is the binge-drinking culture.
"We come up short and we get the fights, the injuries and the high attendance at the ED department of the hospital.
"It's quite a big cost to the community in different ways."
Macpherson supported a closing time of midnight in the suburbs and 2am in the central business district.
Currently, the hours for on-licence businesses are 8am to 1am the following morning if not in the central city or 8am to 3am the following morning if located in the central city.
Waikato District Health Board chief executive Dr Nigel Murray declined a request to comment but in a letter previously submitted to council he said Hamilton was an "entertainment hub".
"Extended opening hours ensures alcohol is available to more people for longer periods of time. Late closings are likely to benefit people who are already under the influence of alcohol.
"A one-way door policy will facilitate a steadier and slower number of patrons leaving bars as opposed to the current situation which sees a large number of people leaving the same time as they close."
He suggests nightclub doors should be exit-only from 1am in the CBD.
Hamilton City Council's city growth general manager Kelvyn Eglinton confirmed no date has been set for the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority to consider the council's alcohol policy.
"The council decided to look at a one-way door provision following the adoption of the current policy which does not have a one-way door provision in it.
"As we do not know when the hearing will begin, be completed, or the outcome, we are unable to know when a one-way door provision will be discussed by the council again.
"If a one-way door provision is included in the next version of the policy, the community, including Hamilton residents and businesses, will have the opportunity to make submissions on a one-way door provision," he said.
"It is difficult to give an indication as to how long the adoption of a new policy will take, however the current LAP process started in 2012."
Once the LAP is in place, the District Licensing Committee must follow the policy when making decisions about on and off-licence applications.
Copies of the policy and each appeal are available to view online at hamilton.govt.nz/lap