Gross public intoxication should be banned: Cull

Kevin Mechen
Kevin Mechen
Becoming "grossly intoxicated" in public should be an offence in Dunedin, even if it means clogging the city's police cells, a Dunedin mayoral candidate believes.

Cr Dave Cull - who is standing for mayor as well as for re-election as a councillor - made the call for stronger rules yesterday, during discussions at a Dunedin City Council planning and environment committee meeting.

Councillors were considering a report by council liquor licensing co-ordinator Kevin Mechen, outlining the activities of the Dunedin District Licensing Agency for the year to June 30.

Mr Mechen's report included a copy of the Alcohol Advisory Council's (AAC) national strategy - "changing the drinking culture" - prepared in 2008, but noted Dunedin strategies had not yet been given "the attention they require" to change the city's drinking culture.

Cr Cull argued more emphasis should be put on controlling intoxicated people who wandered the city's streets.

He said the AAC's strategy noted licensees were turning away drinkers who arrived at city venues already heavily intoxicated, but made no mention of how to control them once they were left on the street.

The answer should be to make gross public drunkenness a "local offence" in Dunedin, he believed.

It is not the first time Cr Cull has backed the rule, after supporting the idea during the last local body election campaign in 2007.

However, the suggestion won some support yesterday from committee chairman Cr Michael Guest.

Cr Guest agreed more needed to be done to police Dunedin's streets, which became "nasty and dangerous" after 1am.

He called for council staff to prepare a report, to be completed in six weeks, containing options to be considered by councillors.

Options could include employing additional council city safety officers to patrol the central city, or a move to bring back old laws prohibiting intoxication in a public place, he said.

Cr Guest warned locking up more drunks could result in the city's police cells becoming "cluttered", but Cr Cull was unperturbed: "It might clear the streets."

The issue was one of safety, he said, citing regular reports of serious assaults in the central city.

While not wanting to be critical of Dunedin police, Cr Guest said their efforts tended to be "reactionary" because of lack of resources, and the issue should be raised again with Dunedin-based MPs.

"It needs to be addressed."

Mr Mechen, in his report, said Dunedin had a "high tolerance for intoxication", but a shift had taken place in the past year.

"There is now a mood for change in the community."

Regular meetings were held with Public Health South and police to discuss alcohol-related matters, and the agency worked as part of the "Drinksafe" partnership to reduce alcohol-related harm in Dunedin.

The total number of applications dealt with by the agency during the year to June 30 had increased 11% to 1372, up from 1238 in the previous year, including a 26% increase in special licence applications for one-off events, he said.

Police running controlled purchase operations had targeted 25 premises during the year, with two (8%) selling alcohol to under-age buyers, down from 13% the previous year, he said.

"While this is encouraging there is still room for improvement."

The number of licensed premises in Dunedin had dropped slightly, down from 442 in 2009 to 432 this year, after rising steadily - most years - from 376 in 1999.

 

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