Shorter liquor outlet opening hours an issue

The hearing into the future of Dunedin's new alcohol sales rules yesterday took in everything from the adaptability of young people buying alcohol to the importance of what time it is bought.

Supermarkets, the hotel industry, liquor outlets and police are appealing the council's local alcohol policy (LAP).

The LAP was signed by Dunedin city councillors in June last year, following extended debate and public consultation.

Its new rules include a 2.30am one-way door policy and 3am closing for most inner-city bars, except ''genuine'' live entertainment venues, which could remain open until 4am.

Supermarkets and other off-licence retailers would have their alcohol hours cut from 7am-11pm to 9am-9pm.

At an Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) hearing at the Dunedin District Court before Judge Kevin Kelly and members Judith Moorhead and Ross Miller, counsel for the appellants and the council questioned specialist witnesses for the appellants.

Market Economics associate director Natalie Hampson saidon Monday Dunedin's population was growing while the number of off-licence premises was decreasing.

The density of off-licences in the area proposed for a moratorium was decreasing, as was the number of alcohol-related incidents.

Ms Hampson was cross-examined yesterday morning by Dunedin City Council counsel David Robinson.

She accepted data she had presented on alcohol-related incidents was not comprehensive, and she did not use all possible sources of data.

Asked by Mr Robinson whether fewer off-licences could have been one reason for a drop in alcohol-related incidents, she said it could have been a factor.

She said there had also been a reduction in on-licences.

Asked if she accepted her statement alcohol-related incidents were declining was inconsistent with a 2013 Southern District Health Board report that showed an increase in alcohol-related hospital presentations, she said her evidence was based on only one set of data.

Market Economics director Douglas Fairgray answered questions about his evidence.

Acting Sergeant Richard Panting asked him if young people ''pre-loading'' before going out would change the timing of their alcohol buying to fit in if new closing times were imposed.

Dr Fairgray said they might adapt to a new situation.

Acting Sgt Panting asked him if he had worked a night shift, and done supermarket shopping early in the morning before going home.

Dr Fairgray replied some people might want to do so, so they did not have to worry about it later.

Asked by council counsel Kate Logan if a greater proportion of off-licences opened after 9am, Dr Fairgray said liquor stores did, but supermarkets opened earlier, as they were quite different outlets.

Ms Moorhead said she understood young people were less likely to plan their evenings out, and asked Dr Fairgray whether they would adapt to earlier closing by buying alcohol earlier. Dr Fairgray said he expected they would.

''I would expect them to pre-plan to a degree, certainly.''

Counsel for Foodstuffs (New World, Pak'n Save, Four Square) Iain Thain asked Environmental Medicine Ltd's Dr Francesca Kelly whether in any of the material she had studied she had found one person affected by another's purchase of alcohol at an off-licence based on the time of day they purchased. Dr Kelly said she had not.

The hearing continues today.

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