30 Oct 2018

Calls for flexibility in alcohol restrictions amid policy reform

6:23 pm on 30 October 2018

New watered-down alcohol controls have been unanimously supported by Dunedin city councillors at a meeting today.

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Photo: 123rf.com

The local alcohol policy, which comes into effect on 1 February, will reduce trading hours and introduce a one-way door policy from 2.30am - meaning people can leave but no new patrons can enter.

Previously, the council fought to restrict alcohol sales to 9pm at supermarkets, include a moratorium on new outlets in the city's student quarter and have a 1am one-way door policy.

It backed down after the draft policy was successfully appealed by New Zealand's two supermarket giants and others opposed to the measures.

The draft policy was first released in 2014 and attracted more than 4200 submissions.

Several councillors took shots at the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) at the meeting for taking the teeth out of the policy.

Councillor Damian Newell said the council had been "hamstrung and held to ransom".

"This is not exactly the policy that we wanted, this is not exactly the policy that the community wanted," he said.

"We do have a lot of work to go to reduce alcohol harm in the community."

Councillor Aaron Hawkins also agreed the council was hamstrung.

"[This is] certainly the most submissions we've received on any topic... which gives a sense of the degree of public interest there was in the local alcohol policy process, as hamstrung as that was subsequently by the decisions made by ARLA," Mr Hawkins said.

The final policy was "a start", he said.

He called for greater "teeth and flexibility to allow for local solutions to local problems" in the legislation.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said law changes might be needed to allow that to happen and to better address alcohol-related harm.

"I think we will be putting effort in in the coming years to achieving better controls than we have been able to achieve this time," he said.

"That may take a law change, but if that's what it takes we will be agitating for that."

He described the process of establishing the policy as "almost one step forward and two back".

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