11 Nov 2014

More street drinking, students warn

5:55 am on 11 November 2014

Dunedin students warn a crack-down on city bars will drive their drinking onto the streets and increase the harm.

Seven days of hearings start this morning on the Dunedin City Council's draft Local Alcohol Plan after it received 4264 submissions.

Paul Hunt believes bottle stores and supermarkets should be targeted.

Paul Hunt believes bottle stores and supermarkets should be targeted. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

The controversial plan would ban outdoor drinking tables after 11pm, spirit shots from midnight, and bring in a one-way door policy from 1am.

Similar proposals from cities and towns including Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington and in the Tasman district, also drew thousands of submissions.

Student views

The special factor in this South Island city is the scarfies - and the scarfies are not happy.

Paul Hunt, president-elect of the Otago University Students' Association, believes the council's plan is draconian and wrong.

He says the evidence shows that off-licence outlets, such as bottle shops and supermarkets, and drinking in private homes cause the harm.

Mr Hunt says any crackdown should be on the off-licence outlets, not bars.

"Particularly the one-way door policy will increase alcohol harm ... if there are more students drinking on the street, more property destruction, more rubbish, more noise complaints - that is all going to make that feeling worse," he says.

The Otago Polytechnic Students' Association agrees, saying that it has in the past supported a one-way door policy, but now thinks that could do more harm than good.

The University of Otago disagrees and supports all the council's suggestions. It goes further in places, including to suggest that all alcohol sales in Dunedin should end at 2am.

Richard Newcombe, owner of Mac's Brew Bar.

Richard Newcombe, owner of Mac's Brew Bar, believes the council hasn't done its homework. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Bar-top views

Much of the Dunedin City Council's plan seems to stem from the police, which proposed a range of bans from midnight including that on liquor shots.

But all this has spurred a big reaction from local bar owners, who believe bars will be driven out of business, especially the student ones. About three-quarters of the nearly 4300 submissions are against the alcohol plan - more than in any other city so far.

Only about 13 percent of submitters support it. Inner-city bar owner Richard Newcombe says that is because the council has not done its homework.

Mr Newcombe, who represents a group formed to fight the plan called the Dunedin Inner City Licencee Forum, says it is not some massive industry - just a collective of small- and medium-sized business owners with staff trying to do a good job.

"We take our responsibilities seriously, and we will get to have a wee bit of a say at the hearings - but at this stage, we have not been consulted at all."

Yet the council's general manager of services and development, Simon Pickford, insists the process has been a success because it has got a proper debate going about where the line should be on alcohol sales.

Mac's Brew Bar on Stuart Street in the central city.

Mac's Brew Bar on Stuart Street in the central city. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

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