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Focus On Safer Communities

Focus On Safer Communities

April 5 2006

How to create a vibrant and dynamic town centre and at the same time avoid the alcohol-related disorder and crime that often comes with a dynamic night-time economy is one of the questions to be debated at this week¡¦s Partnerships Conference in Queenstown.

Organised by the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC), the two-day conference on Thursday 6 April and Friday 7 April focuses on local government management of alcohol issues. The conference is designed for people working in local government policy and planning as well as elected members.

Keynote speakers include Associate Minister of Health Damien O'Connor and British police officer Sergeant Jan Brown who successfully piloted a scheme in the United Kingdom to improve community safety.

Sergeant Brown was involved in the 'Citysafe' project, which succeeded in transforming Manchester City from a dangerous and rundown city to a city that ran the Commonwealth Games successfully and safely. This transformation was achieved through establishing strong and enduring partnerships with local government and the hospitality industry. Her presentation will focus on what can be achieved when different groups work together to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome.

Inspector John Green, New South Wales Police is presenting on reducing alcohol-related crime through intelligence-led policing in New South Wales. The New Zealand police have adopted this approach and termed it Alco-link. This is a highly successful approach in identifying problem licensed premises. The programme has resulted in considerable reduction in street crime and violence where it has been implemented in New South Wales.

"Internationally, alcohol is associated with between 50 and 70 percent of all crime - be it street fights, disorderly behaviour, criminal damage, family violence or drink-driving," says ALAC Chief Executive Officer Dr Mike MacAvoy. "This is quite apart from the disturbance and drunkenness in our towns and cities which a lot of people are sick of.

"The challenge for local government is how to balance the economic and social benefits of a thriving night time entertainment industry with the need to enhance and protect community well being," he says.

"Local government has a significant, and often unrecognised role in providing safe communities especially around alcohol. The Partnerships Conference provides a further opportunity to reinforce the importance of the role they play in reducing alcohol-related harm."

The conference will feature a broad range of case studies and examples of local authorities working to reduce harm in policy and planning settings. In particular, this conference will highlight:

„P Champions of Culture Change - the role of local authorities in changing New Zealand's drinking culture;
„P Communities of Practice - case-studies and examples of Local Authorities working with national and local stakeholders to build stronger communities;
„P Streamlining Legislation - aligning the objectives of the Local Government Act, Resource Management Act and Sale of Liquor Act to work together more effectively;
„P Alcohol Strategies and Sale of Liquor Policies - critical success factors for developing sustainable policy interventions.

Dr MacAvoy says New Zealand has evolved a culture of drinking that accepted excessive drinking as being part of the 'work hard, play hard' ethic.

"This culture comes with both a human and financial cost. Local territorial authorities are no doubt more aware of these costs than most other New Zealanders as they have to deal with local problems caused by excessive drinking.

"Changing this culture is our greatest challenge which is why we are working work with and supporting local government to address issues of alcohol-related harm in their communities."

For further details of the conference and conference programme go to www.alac.org.nz

ENDS

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