Is Ōtara town centre really alcohol free?

6:31 pm on 24 April 2024
Ōtara town centre

Critics want something to be done so Ōtara's town centre really is alcohol free. Photo: LDR / Supplied

Ōtara Youth Hub manager Victoria Hearn said drinking is a "huge issue" in the town centre, even though it has been an alcohol-free zone 24 hours a day, seven days a week since 2015.

"The town centre has a 24-hour alcohol ban but you wouldn't know it," Hearn told Local Democracy Reporting.

She said the area outside the Ōtara TAB and liquor store is "a public drinking spot", with people avoiding shopping in problem drinking areas.

"Girls report lewd comments from people drinking. People don't shop in problem drinking areas. It has been like that for 20 to 30 years," Hearn says.

"We need to do something to stop it."

Last weekend, Ōtara Youth Hub ran Proud to be Alcohol Free to raise awareness of town centre rules and "show people what the town centre should look like".

Hearn said the event was to raise awareness positively: "We held the event in a part of the town centre where the worst part of public drinking happens."

She said the local playground is in the worst part of town as people drink next to it.

"We want to make a statement. This should be a place families can use," she said.

Ōtara town centre

Ōtara Youth Hub ran Proud to be Alcohol Free last weekend to raise awareness of the alcohol ban. Photo: LDR / Supplied

But Hearn said the Proud to be Alcohol Free event wasn't without disruptions.

"We had some confronting moments where rangatahi were painting signs on the footpath whilst elders were drinking," she said.

"We have had rangatahi from the Youth Hub pick up cans from people's feet."

She said alcohol use generally comes from older community members.

"We're trying to challenge that," she said. "It was the first time we saw kids walking around."

Ōtara town centre - free haircuts at alcohol free event

Free haircuts at Ōtara's Proud to be Alcohol Free event. Photo: LDR / Supplied

Alcohol sales in south Auckland

South Auckland has among the highest concentrations of liquor stores in Auckland, which Hearn said could be normalising public consumption.

She said awareness of liquor-free zones and tackling addiction were essential.

"Lots of people are not aware it's an alcohol-free free area.

"With alcohol and drug services, there is not a lot of uptake for regular drinkers. It is an addiction issue."

The event involved educating people in the community on what to do when they saw an alcohol-related issue, she said.

"You have to report it to the police through the 105 number or online," she said, as this built data on the number of incidents in Ōtara town centre.

Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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