Getting the Right Mix on Alcohol

6 September 2013

Next week Wellington City Councillors will strike a balance between the city’s vibrant and dynamic reputation and ensuring community safety.

Following extensive community engagement and consultation, the Wellington City Council will debate its provisional Local Alcohol Policy next Thursday 12 September at the Strategy and Policy Committee.

Key proposals include setting maximum on-licence trading hours for the central city of 7am- 5am, with further mandatory conditions past 3am. Officers recommend maximum off-licence trading hours of 7am-11pm.

Mayor Celia Wade-Brown says public interest in the policy is significant, with Council receiving almost 1900 submissions from a wide range of community, governmental, health and industry organisations and individuals.

"We aim to balance minimising the harms caused by alcohol with the need to sustain a vibrant and enjoyable city," said Mayor Wade-Brown.

"The evidence presented to Councillors was that bars and venues, for the most part, sell alcohol responsibly. Our greatest concern is with people drinking outside the venues – such as loading up too much at home before coming in to town, or excessive drinking in public environments in the city of alcohol bought from off-licenses.

"There was a strong message from our communities that people who load up on 10 vodka shots before hitting town, or who drain six beers in the back of a van parked on a side-street, are spoiling the downtown experience and putting themselves at risk," said the Mayor.

"It’s important to realise that local government has been given a limited range of tools to deal with alcohol-related problems – we can’t increase the price of alcohol at off-licenses, for example."

The paper recommends setting maximum off-licence trading hours at 7am to 11pm and include a new initiative to establish a voluntary accord for a six month trial of 7am-9pm trading hours for all off-licenses in the central city and Southern Zone on Friday and Saturday nights. Council received a variety of evidence on the issue of off-license hours.

Cr Stephanie Cook, Council’s Social portfolio leader, said any trial would be independently evaluated and Council would seek support from Central Government for the evaluation.

"This is an interesting proposal to seek evidence so we can act on the problem of pre-loading and side-loading of alcohol," said Cr Cook. "If the evidence stacks up then District Licensing Committees will be in a better position to act in the best interests of our communities.

"The proposal to introduce entertainment precincts was not supported. We don’t want to stifle some of the niche character venues that might fall outside an arbitrary boundary, such as some of Wellington’s burgeoning craft beer bars. We also agreed with submitters from bars and venues and also the police that there was a risk one precinct would concentrate trouble."

Council’s Strategy and Policy Committee will debate the draft Local Alcohol Policy next Thursday 12 September from 9.15 at Committee Room 1, 101 Wakefield Street.

For copies of the draft policy, submissions and appendices, see:

Strategy & Policy Committee meeting - 12 September 2013

Public Input - The Right Mix