Shorter trading hours key to reducing alcohol harm
Shorter trading hours of licensed premises key to reducing alcohol harm in New Zealand – visiting Australian expert
Leading Australian alcohol researcher, Associate Professor Peter Miller, says New Zealand needs to reduce the hours licensed premises are open if it wants to address night time alcohol-related crime and violence in its cities.
Professor Miller, from Deakin University, is in New Zealand to share findings from two of the largest studies ever into licensed premises.
The research compared six Australian cities over three years and involved talking to over 11,000 patrons.
“The studies looked at the effectiveness of interventions for reducing alcohol-related offending and injuries. When we looked at the findings from the cities of Newcastle and Geelong, for example, we found the most effective intervention was a reduction in trading hours.
“In Newcastle, where trading hour restrictions and a number of other interventions were imposed on licensed premises, there were significant improvements in alcohol-related injuries and offending. Significant reductions in assaults and injuries have been achieved and continue to improve. There were also reductions in behaviours such as ‘pre-loading’.
“In Geelong where the interventions such as ID scanners, CCTV and radio networks were voluntary and did not include reduced trading hours, improvements were not observed.”
He says the studies found that over 80 percent of people who were heavily intoxicated subsequently purchased another drink, showing ‘responsible service of alcohol’ training was failing.
“The studies found some interventions, such as ‘lock-outs’ or ‘one-way doors’* as they are called here, are useful support strategies, while others – often those supported by the alcohol industry – are ineffective and counterproductive.
“Clearly reduced trading hours and other strategies can reduce the amount of alcohol consumed and levels of intoxication, then you see a change in the negative consequences.”
Professor Miller says it’s timely to share these findings with New Zealand, given the work being done on local alcohol policies here.
“I hope the Australian experience will help you create safer cities and reduce the alcohol-related harms we see late at night.”
He says voluntary systems simply don't work.
Alcohol Healthwatch Director Rebecca Williams says the Australian research clearly shows that mandatory requirements for licensed premises to close earlier will reduce harm, and local councils need ensure that such evidence informs their local alcohol policies.
“In New Zealand nearly half of the victims of crime in public places say the offender was intoxicated. During weekends up to 75 percent of injury presentations to emergency departments are alcohol-related. Alcohol-related offending and injuries peak around midnight. Reducing trading hours will reduce this harm, and local alcohol policies provide the perfect mechanism to do this.”
Prof Miller will be presenting his findings at seminars in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland this week. He will be joined by New Zealand researchers at each of the seminars and other relevant issues such as outlet density of licensed premises will be discussed.
*‘Lock-outs’ or ‘one-way doors’ – A time is set when new patrons aren't permitted to enter a licensed premise and existing patrons can leave but not re-enter the premises.