22 Oct 2014

Doctor calls for real change over drink

5:00 pm on 22 October 2014

Earlier closing times for bars and off-licence premises is only a first step to addressing levels of hazardous drinking in Wellington, the region's Medical Officer of Health says.

Stephen Palmer was giving evidence at the hearing into Wellington City Council's Local Alcohol Policy today before the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.

Courtenay Place in the capital's entertainment district.

Courtenay Place in the capital's entertainment district. Photo: PHOTO NZ

The council is defending its policy which allows some bars to remain open until 5am and off-licence premises to sell alcohol until 11pm.

Dr Palmer said the drinking in Wellington is worse than most other regions and real change is needed. He said the times which alcohol can be sold and bars close may need to be earlier than the proposed 9pm and 3am.

A lawyer representing some supermarkets asked Dr Palmer whether people who drink responsibly would be disadvantaged by stricter buying times, but Dr Palmer said that would only be a small number.

A police officer told the hearing yesterday that assaults on young women are a weekly occurrence and alcohol-fuelled students are a real concern.

Senior Sergeant Andrzej Kowalcyzk said drunk women often become separated from groups and walk home alone, which he shudders to think about. He said Tory, Dixon, Taranaki and Cuba streets are a real concern with drunk students.

Senior Sergeant Mark Buttar told the hearing that officers are being pulled from communities around Wellington to focus on preventing alcohol related crimes in the city on Friday and Saturday nights.

Mr Buttar said it is a tough call having to drag community officers and Youth Aid staff from their work to prevent alcohol related offences in the city. He said it is necessary but unfortunate, and police also want to see closing times brought forward.

Lawyers representing the Wellington City Council, police, the Medical Officer of Health, bars, restaurants and supermarkets are involved in the hearing that will continue at the Wellington District Court into next week.

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