Gisborne's proposed alcohol rules labelled 'cultural throwback'

9:54 am on 1 March 2024
A person's hand can be seen holding a beer glass as the beer pours from a tap in a bar.

Proposed new alcohol rules could place restrictions on Gisborne's hospitality industry. (file image) Photo: Unsplash / Amie Johnson

Proposed new alcohol rules could force some restaurants to close earlier and others from opening up close to marae and schools in Gisborne.

Gisborne District Council approved a draft local alcohol policy on Wednesday, which will go out for public consultation.

"We need public korero to structure an alcohol policy that is actually local," councillor Josh Wharehinga said.

The proposed plan includes restricting new licences for class 1 restaurants located within 150 metres of sensitive sites such as marae, schools, and places of religion.

Class 1 restaurants have a bar area that operates at least one night a week "in the manor of a tavern", the report says.

Class 2 and 3 restaurants might have a bar but do not operate as a tavern at any time.

The new policy also proposes making class 2 and 3 restaurants close at midnight instead of 2am, and to cease external advertisements at liquor stores.

A council officer said the proposed earlier closing time would only apply to cafes and restaurants, not taverns.

Councillor Tony Robinson said having restrictions on liquor sites near sensitive areas was "almost a cultural throwback", and questioned whether it was relevant today.

An important question raised by councillor Aubrey Ria and councillor Rawinia Parata is "where will rangatahi go to drink, if not at licensed premises?"

Ria said: "We're taking them from a monitored and controlled area, into different pockets of the community and possibly causing more work for our emergency services and police."

Parata said there was an excessive amount of liquor stores available.

"People tend to behave when they go to restaurants, but not when they purchase their drinks from liquor stores."

Gisborne has 3.8 liquor stores per 10,000 people, which is higher than the national average of 3.2, according to the report.

The infographic shows the number of licensed premises (in blue) with the number of sensitive sites (in red) within Gisborne’s CBD area.

The infographic shows the number of licensed premises (in blue) with the number of sensitive sites (in red) within Gisborne’s CBD area. Photo: Supplied / Gisborne District Council

Councillor Larry Foster said there were at least three sensitive sites in the CBD area.

"What is the CBD area for?" he asked. "Restaurants, cafes, and bars are renowned for creating vibrancy," he said.

"We've never had a problem with 2am (closing) before. Why are we changing it to 12am?"

Ria questioned why licensed establishments were being restricted at night when sensitive sites were often open during the day.

Class 2 and 3 restaurants can open from 10am. "Why not restrict their operating hours during the day, rather than at night?"

Ria also wanted to make sure rangatahi were consulted during the process.

She suggested using a QR code to include rangatahi in the consultation process, and having the codes placed in the establishments that rangatahi go to past 12am.

"This would also help to include the business owners that will be affected as well," she said.

The issue of advertisements outside liquor stores also featured during discussion, with many councillors agreeing this was harmful.

Mayor Rehette Stoltz finished the meeting by highlighting the need to keep the consultation simple - to show the public the status quo alongside the changes being proposed.

"While we're having our herbal teas at night, it is the rangatahi and business owners that will be affected," she said.

"We need to make sure they are consulted."

Councils are required to renew their local alcohol policy every six years.

Gisborne's is up for renewal this year.

LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.