Hundreds of revellers celebrate New Year's Eve in Queenstown Mall. Photo by James Beech.
It is a fine line creating a festive, fun atmosphere in a
tourist town such as Queenstown, but also one that is safe
and encourages personal responsibility. In the third part of
our series Booze Control: Stop and Think, Queenstown reporter
Tracey Roxburgh talks to a Queenstown Lakes District Council
staff member about how they try to find this balance.
The Queenstown Lakes District Council has its work cut out.
It has the unenviable task of finding the right balance
between encouraging visitors and allowing them to enjoy every
moment of their Queenstown experience, making the resort
attractive for permanent residents of all ages - and
regulating the seemingly overwhelming number of licensed
premises in the district.
It is the latter which QLDC regulatory manager Lee Webster is
Late last year, the council conducted an informal online
alcohol survey - a process Mr Webster described as a ''litmus
test'', designed to glean information from residents and
visitors about alcohol and Queenstown.
It was the first part in a process which will ultimately
determine whether the district will have a local alcohol
policy under new regulations.
However, of key importance was taking time to get it right,
Mr Webster said.
''We don't want to rush into this. We don't want a knee-jerk
''We need to understand what our community's needs are.''
Mr Webster said there was no doubt there were issues in the
Queenstown community with regard to alcohol.
There were also the same issues in many other communities, if
not every other community, in New Zealand.
For there to be a workable solution, agencies had to work
together, he said.
Those agencies included police, the medical officer of
health, door staff and taxi companies, along with ''the key
Mellow Yellow, launched in 2011, in which door staff and
community guides in high-vis yellow vests give the impression
of a heavy security presence, had proved effective.
In Wanaka, a trial was under way whereby any patron ejected
from one bar could not gain entry anywhere else.
However, there was ''no point'' in those sorts of initiatives
unless licensees ''buy into it''.
''Otherwise, we have to regulate.''
The new legislation, which came into effect on December 18,
made it easier for the District Licensing Committee (DLC),
chaired by retired district court judge Bill Unwin, of
Nelson, to refuse licences based on previous incidents which
adversely affected the ''amenity and good character'' of an
That included excessive noise complaints, or patrons vomiting
or urinating in doorways.
It also gave power to neighbours who could make complaints
which would be dealt with by the DLC.
''They can look at that and say `It's more than minor'.''
Mr Webster said licensees had an extremely difficult job -
enticing people into their venue, encouraging them to have a
good time and enjoy themselves and simultaneously expecting
them to ''behave''.
The major issue was what happened when people did not behave
and were ejected or denied entry.
''Alcohol is a drug that affects your mind. The decisions you
are making now are not the same as you would after two
bottles of wine.
''They [intoxicated people] are not cognisant and they're not
thinking, which is why they make stupid decisions.
''You might go to the supermarket, buy a couple of bottles of
wine, drink them, go out and be refused entry to a bar.
''Now you're on the street.
''It's not a licensee issue.
''Has the council got the ability to remove you? No.
''Can the licensee move you along? No.
''How can we deal with this?''The new legislation did reverse
parts of the 1989 Sale of Liquor Act and, in some respects,
removed responsibility from individuals for their behaviour,
and gave the DLC more teeth.
It also enabled territorial authorities to set their own
fees, meaning the costs would be born entirely by the
licensees. Previously, the council had offset the cost by
51%, through rates.
Further, it enabled the council to use its discretion to vary
fees, depending on the efforts made by licensees.
However, the issue of alcohol-related harm - particularly
when that harm occurred outside licensed premises - would not
be easily fixed, Mr Webster said.
''We want people to be safe - come here, enjoy themselves,
and go home in one piece.
''When we talk about alcohol-related issues or
alcohol-related harm, it's [often] the overseas person who
just punched the next person because they can't get to their
burger on time.
''There are issues around youth access to alcohol - parents
giving their children alcohol and they're not being guided in
''We have issues with domestic violence, acute and chronic
disease - it's not just the person in the street.
''We are trying to create a safe environment for our whole