A huge thumbs up to the Wellington City Council who yesterday resolved:
Agree that Council reaffirms its position, following extensive consultation, for licensing in Wellington City – being to allow the District Licensing Committee to operate under the provisions as determined by Central Government in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 without the guidance of a Local Alcohol Policy, (including within the default national trading hours for on and off license premises.
This is the Council asking Police to abide by position that the Council has arrived at following extensive consultation
I’ve blogged many times on how the Police have been abusing their position and threatening license holders with objections unless they agree to the trading hours and one way policies the Police want.
This is and remains constitutionally repugnant. The job of the Police is to enforce the laws, not to make them. We don’t live in Mega City One with Judge Dredd. The Parliament of New Zealand and the Wellington City Council have resolved what the licensing hours shall be, and whether a one way policy should be required. They both determined no. Yet the Police have been trying to overturn this, which is an abuse of their special position. Their advice on alcohol licenses should be confined to how well the licensee has complied with the law.
Wellington City Council has given a stern warning to police about their attempts to change bar hours, reminding them that 4am closing means just that.
Councillors made the public declaration on Wednesday, against a backdrop of rising tensions between the police and bar owners in the Courtenay Place party zone.
Wellington adheres to the national “default” trading hours for on-licence premises set by the Government, which allow bars and restaurants to sell alcohol until 4am.
But some bars owners believe the police are trying to set new rules by opposing CBD liquor licences unless bars agree to more restricted trading hours.
Councillor Paul Eagle, who chairs the community, sport and recreation committee, said there was a feeling the District Licensing Committee was being “pressured” by police and health officials, who were not “acting in the spirit” of the laws as they were currently written.
The Police and health officials have decided they they should determine the law, not elected officials.
Wellington area commander Inspector Chris Bensemann said there was little point in the council “sitting on its hands”, as it was plain to see there was a problem with drunk and disorderly people in Courtenay Place in the early hours.
I understand the Police showed a video to the Council of Courtenay Place at midnight. It didn’t show a single fight, but as Deputy Mayor Justin Lester pointed out, just a lot of people having fun. The Police responded saying they edited out the fight scenes!!! Sure.
“There needs to be an acceptance that there is alcohol harm in our community,” he said. “We have to move forward with this, and we have to be courageous. If we just throw our hands up in the air and say it’s too hard, that would be sad.”
Of course there is alcohol harm in our community. But the aim of the law is not to eliminate harm, but reduce it – balancing that out with the huge amount of enjoyment people get from being able to have a drink at home, or on town.
If the aim is to eliminate harm, then we’d have a speed limit of 20 km/hr. We’d ban sausages. We’d ban people doing home maintenance etc.
Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown asked Bensemann to back up his claim with statistics, saying the council preferred to base its decisions on good data.
But Bensemann said statistics tended to be overanalysed. His officers were on the ground in Courtenay Place, and did not need stats to tell them that too many people were getting drunk and “looking for trouble”.
This is the Police admitting they had no data or evidence to back up their decision. I understand the Mayor several times asked for evidence and they got nothing from the Police. That is because of course almost every survey done shows youth drinking dropping, drink driving dropping etc.
Yes there are still a minority of people who cause trouble and harm. But public policy is about getting the balance right. The Police don’t like the decisions made by the democratically elected law makers, so they have been trying to impose their own policy on license applicants.
“Believe me, it is real,” he said. “Alcohol harm in Courtenay Place is real. I regularly experience it, and my staff experience it, every weekend.”
Wade-Brown replied that the council preferred to base its decisions on solid data.
The fact that the Council voted unanimously to slap down the Police should ring warning bells to the Police Commissioner. His Wellington team are out of control and stepping well beyond their appropriate role. The Commissioner should tell them to get into line and stop trying to usurp law making from the Council and Parliament.