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Councils pander to the Liquor Industry

Councils pander to the Liquor Industry

Alcohol Action Hawke’s Bay spokesperson Dr Fran Lowe said today that she was dismayed that the joint Hastings-Napier City Council Local Alcohol Policy committee ignored the advice of the HBDHB, the Police and the community by deciding to allow bars in both cities to stay open from 8 am till 3 am.

“They are clearly pandering to the liquor industry, whose motives are not to reduce alcohol-related harm, but to maximise profit by staying open as long as they can,” she said.

“Hawke’s Bay has a very high rate of alcohol consumption, with nearly a quarter of our drinkers classified as hazardous drinkers,” Dr Lowe said.
“According to their own Joint Alcohol Policy research, approximately half of all offending in Napier and Hastings is alcohol-fueled. The estimated cost of alcohol-related harm for hospitalisation and injury in Hawke’s Bay is around $25 million per year, to say nothing of the lives lost. You’d think that our councils would be eager to find ways to reduce this well-documented harm.”

However, Dr Lowe said, in their meeting yesterday none of the councillors mentioned the word “harm” in their deliberations, focusing more on how to make alcohol more available, citing reasons such as: most bars shut earlier anyway; bars have excellent processes for dealing with problems; people need time after a wedding to have a quiet drink when most people go home; people need to be able to buy alcohol in the morning before they go on an outing; all restaurants should be able to stay open until 2am because the Black Barn might want to stay open - allowing all restaurants to become bars by default.

"None of these constitute a valid reason, and none have any basis in the evidence prepared by their own staff.

“They ignored the evidence presented to them that longer opening hours means more incidences of violent crime; and they ignored the Hastings District Council survey which showed that most people want shorter, not longer opening hours.

“All but one of them – Cr Watkins, who alone voted against the longer hours - seemed to have forgotten that the purpose of their policy was not to make trading and selling and getting drunk easier, it was to reduce harm in the community.

"They had an opportunity to show all of us that they wanted to work with the Police and the DHB to improve the well-being of all sectors of the community, but they decided instead to protect the interests of the liquor industry and, it seems, middle class drinkers.”


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