Liquor ban back on agenda

Despite misgivings from some Dunedin city councillors, a plan to ban liquor from the streets of the student quarter is back on the agenda.

Figures released yesterday by police area commander Inspector Dave Campbell, who is behind the plan, showed that disorder and damage increased last year in North Dunedin.

Insp Campbell said his proposal, despite being a first for New Zealand, was necessary to curb an ‘‘absolutely crazy'' situation that would not be tolerated anywhere else in the city, or anywhere else in New Zealand

But Otago University Students Association president Simon Wilson said the council needed to think ‘‘very carefully'' about a bylaw that would make people criminals for drinking outside their homes.

The proposal to increase the area in which people are banned from drinking on the street to include the student flatting quarter came before the city council's planning and environment committee yesterday, with a staff report recommending it be investigated.

That recommendation was approved.

It is the second time Insp Campbell's idea has come before the council. In 2006 councillors decided to wait to see how the University of Otago's Campus Watch programme and the introduction of the city's safety officers would affect disorder.

But Insp Campbell's figures showed disorder offences had increased from 66 in 2006 to 162 last year, and damage instances from 169 to 211.

Both have increased even after taking into account the 61 people who faced charges after disorder following the Undie 500 car rally last year.

Fire call-outs to the area this year were 33 to last Friday, which raised significant safety issues, Insp Campbell said.

Partying in the street caused problems, and while behaviour had improved since Campus Watch started, it was ‘‘far from perfect''.

Insp Campbell said some councillors might consider it would mean students were being treated differently to the rest of the population.

‘‘The fact is, we don't have fires in Mornington and Maori Hill. You don't have glass littering the street. You don't have bottles used as missiles to break windows.''

A subcommittee, to be chaired by Cr Michael Guest, will investigate the proposal and report back. Cr Guest repeated his concerns about extending the liquor ban, which he said raised ‘‘quite heady matters of principle''.

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