Alcohol bans upgraded but ‘more needs to be done’

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Changes to alcohol restrictions have met with approval but more needs to be done, the Wanaka Alcohol Group says.

Queenstown Lakes District councillors will be asked today to adopt a new bylaw restricting alcohol in public places.

Wanaka Alcohol Group chairwoman Rachel Brown said the restrictions had relevance for Wanaka and Hawea as there were alcohol ban areas in both towns.

Some of the changes included alcohol restrictions beginning at 8pm instead of 10pm, and changing signage to “alcohol-free zone” instead of “alcohol ban area”.

Ms Brown said a key change was the council writing to the Government, requesting a review of clause 147(b) of the Local Government Act 2002 to allow councils to create more proactive measures to reduce alcohol harm in their communities.

This clause related to the ability of local councils to make bylaws for alcohol control purposes.

At present the clause required evidence of “a high level of crime or disorder that can be shown to have been caused or made worse by alcohol consumption in the area”.

This meant that council could not be proactive, and was able to make bylaws only if there was already a problem, she said.

“Council has to provide all this evidence of bad behaviour and criminal records and everything that alcohol has caused to justify any bans.

“You have to wait until it turns to custard to do anything about it. You can’t be proactive.”

Queenstown Lakes District Council (QLDC) regulatory manager Lee Webster said if adopted, the bylaw would take into account views of 41 submitters, “including the New Zealand Police, Southern District Health Board, Wanaka Alcohol members of the community”.

“We believe these restrictions will create an environment that feels safer for everyone to enjoy and will encourage people to either drink at home or in licensed premises where there are better controls on hand for disorderly behaviour,” he said.

“As well as approval on the bylaw we’re asking that councillors support our approach to work more closely with the local health board and police to ensure stronger evidence and information can be shared to assist any future decision making and reviews of this bylaw.”