Further alcohol restrictions needed – police
Police are pushing for further restrictions on Auckland's bars and clubs, saying measures to reduce bar-hopping could curb the city's binge drinking problem.
Some changes to New Zealand's alcohol laws came into effect on Wednesday night imposing stricter closing times on bars and clubs, and tighter controls on the sale of alcohol at supermarkets and bottle shops.
Around 300 premises in Auckland have been forced to alter their closing time to 4am as a result.
However, police say the new laws are just the start and are calling for further restrictions to be introduced by the Local Alcohol Policy, which is under development by Auckland Council and will govern the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol in the region.
"Police have made submissions that we'd like to see all bars and clubs close by 3am in the CBD. We'd also like to see a two-hour one-way door policy starting from 1am in the CBD," says Inspector Gary Davey from Auckland Police.
Police believe stopping people from entering bars after 1am would help to control alcohol-related violence and incidents.
"It would also stop people coming in and out of the bars side-loading with alcohol, then coming back into the bars, and it would also stop everybody flowing out onto the street all at one time," says Insp Davey.
Police have become concerned with the number of alcohol-related incidents, and say there are around two or three people being knocked unconscious per week due to drunken violence.
Research shows the majority of alcohol-fuelled attacks and incidents happen after midnight, which is why they are pushing for the one-way door policy.
Restricting access 'just madness'
However, Hospitality New Zealand disagrees with police and says enforcing such a rule would be "totally unrealistic".
"It's just madness – there's no evidence anywhere that it works," says Hospitality New Zealand's Auckland branch president Kevin Schwass.
Although the organisation agrees that more needs to be done, Mr Schwass says the policy won't work for a number of reasons.
"There's going to be an aggressive attitude from the people that can't get into the bars – we're kidding ourselves that if they think because the bars have got a one-way door policy, people that are already on the street or out and about think "it's time to go home" – that's just totally unrealistic," says Mr Schwass.
He believes it will pressure partygoers in areas such as Takapuna and Manukau to leave the suburbs by 12am, in order to reach central city clubs by 1am.
"It causes people to stay longer in bars because they don't have the flexibility of moving from one to another," he says.
Banning public drunkenness a better way?
Mr Schwass says he'd rather see a ban on being intoxicated in a public place.
"Unfortunately in New Zealand we have a culture of drinking that it's okay to get intoxicated and drunk and fall over and make an idiot of yourself, and somehow we've got to get rid of that culture."
He says New Zealand's binge drinking culture is a result of pre-loading and side-loading, where partygoers drink cheaper alcohol before coming into town or in car parks outside clubs.
Mr Schwass believes that although there are a large number of liquor bans in place across the city, it's not realistic for police to patrol them all the time.
"It gives police a tool, but if people are already drunk when they go into those areas, then there's nothing police can do about it.
"Until it's an offence to be drunk in public, there's not much more police can do."
In addition, Mr Schwass would like to see more clubs and bars implementing door charges so they're not reliant on selling alcohol to recoup costs.
He admits the move would not be popular with patrons, but says it may be the best way to change their behaviour as well as the bars' sales tactics.
Mr Schwass also believes new restrictions which now require supermarkets and bottle shops to stop selling alcohol by 11pm won't prevent pre-loading.
Auckland Council agrees changes to drinking attitudes won't improve overnight, but say the new laws are a start.
"Changes in our drinking culture will take time but this initial change to hours of operation will make the Auckland CBD more user-friendly for the public, licensees and inner city residents," says Auckland Council's alcohol licensing manager Rob Abbott.
Auckland Council will seek political approval of a draft Local Alcohol Policy early next year. It's hoped the policy will be adopted for the Auckland district in late 2014.