D-day for city alcohol rules

After poring over thousands of submissions, Dunedin city councillors will today decide what to include in a controversial proposal aimed at curbing alcohol-related harm.

Consultation on a draft policy, which proposed a one-hour cutback to 3am and a one-way door policy from 1am, last year prompted an unprecedented 4262 submissions.

Opinions were divided between those angry the changes would destroy the city's nightlife and those who believed they would help tackle alcohol-fuelled harm.

Another controversial change in the draft would force bars to close outside areas after 11pm.

A committee of Mayor Dave Cull and Crs Aaron Hawkins, Mike Lord, Jinty MacTavish, Neville Peat, Andrew Whiley and Lee Vandervis will today decide behind closed doors whether the changes make it into a final proposal, which then needs to be approved by the full council.

Hospitality Association of New Zealand Otago branch president Mark Scully said if the draft went through unchanged there would ''undoubtedly'' be an appeal.

The city's hospitality industry was eagerly awaiting today's deliberations because many of their livelihoods depended on what was in the final policy.

The two biggest issues the industry and its supporters had against the draft were the one-way door policy and the restriction on outdoor areas, he said.

''If outdoor areas were banned from 11pm, I think it would decimate the Octagon trade.''

However, he believed there would be a ''general acceptance'' if the hours were taken back from 4am to 3am.

''I think it would be great if what we saw tomorrow was acceptable to everyone, because [if not] what will happen, of course, will be an appeals process,'' he said.

''It would be great if Dunedin got it right first time.''

Mr Scully was ''reasonably confident'' of a fair result after the industry got a ''very fair hearing'' from councillors last year.

Mr Cull said the committee would confirm a proposal today, which would then go to the full council for approval ''as soon as possible''.

Asked if the hospitality industry would like what the committee had come up with so far, he replied: ''Put it this way, we have listened to them.''

The difference between the two opposing sides was not large, Mr Cull said.

''We are all wanting safe drinking environments. Police, for instance, and bar owners really want the same thing,'' he said.

''Bar owners don't want disorder and drunkenness and violence in their establishments, nor do police.''

The process had been ''constructive''.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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