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Hospitality NZ urges crack down on public drunkeness

Hospitality New Zealand urges a direct crack down on public drunkenness

Hospitality New Zealand says the Wellington City Council should amend its proposals to unduly restrict licenced premises and instead focus on increasing the personal responsibility of drinkers for their actions. “If the Council is really serious about creating a safer city, they should concentrate directly on the problem drinkers and anti-social behaviour. Making public drunkenness an offence again would give authorities the power to deal directly with the people making trouble. At the moment, the Council seems fixated using closing hours, a blunt instrument to address the issues, this will destroy our vibrant city hospitality scene through excessive regulation and restrictions on licenced premises,” said Jeremy Smith, Wellington Branch President of Hospitality New Zealand.

Mr Smith noted that “public drunkenness was a crime in New Zealand between 1927 and 1981 under section 41 of the Police Offences Act. Reintroducing something similar would allow Police or other officers to focus directly on the behaviours that make liquor a concern (crime, boorishness and other anti-social behaviour) and on the drinkers who exhibit those behaviours. It means the local entertainment scene could have a no-tolerance policy for alcohol-fuelled nuisance.”

“Unfortunately, the Council’s Draft Local Alcohol Plan is targeted almost exclusively at licensed premises which are already heavily regulated and responsible for their actions. The proposals to limit the number of licenced premises, reduce closing hours and impose more conditions on licences will be costly and difficult to administer. It will have a negative impact on the hospitality scene, be a cost to local businesses and, worst of all, will not reduce the problems,” said Mr Smith.

Mr Smith said “research shows 75% of drinking occurs outside licenced premises – in houses, cars or public places. Cracking down on licenced premises will have no impact on this. It is time to bring back personal responsibility instead of always blaming the industry. The Council’s own public opinion survey shows that 96% of Wellington residents believe that individuals bear a moderate or great deal of responsibility for addressing alcohol related harm. What can be clearer than making individuals responsible for their own behaviour while drinking?

This follows the model that worked to reduce drink driving offending – put consequences in place for antisocial behaviour. This could be a penalty in the way of a fine or a 24hr trespass notice from premises or the CBD.”

To assist the Council, Hospitality New Zealand has commissioned expert legal advice from public law firm Franks & Ogilvie. The Wellington City Council could request a Wellington MP to present a Local Bill to Parliament. This Bill could give the Council the option of making public drunkenness an offence in some of, or the entire, city. Local Bills take precedence over Member’s Bills and have been used successfully in relation to graffiti and gang patches,” said Mr Smith.

“Wellington has a chance to be a trail-blazer by introducing measures which focus on the issue instead of simply whacking licence holders and hospitality staff. The current draft Local Alcohol Plan will not deliver on the Council’s aspirations for a dynamic city centre. Targeting public drunkenness will. We urge the Council to seriously consider this option in the interests of the entire city,” concluded Mr Smith.


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