A win for evidence based policy

The ODT reports:

New Zealand’s major supermarket chains have successfully fought Dunedin City Council efforts to restrict alcohol sales in the city.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (Arla) ruled that parts of the council’s local alcohol policy (LAP) were “unreasonable”, including the proposal to cut off-licence hours from 7am-11pm to 9am-9pm.

Arla also ruled that a proposed moratorium on most types of bottle stores in North Dunedin, which the council hoped would help curb problem drinking in the area, was unreasonable.

They were deemed unreasonable because there was no evidence they would reduce harm from alcohol. The legislation requires policies to be based on evidence, not emotion.

I’ve done some research in this area and the people buying alcohol from supermarkets before 9 am or after 9 pm are not people planning to drink it that day. They are simply mums and dads with jobs and kids who do the weekly shopping at these times, and like to purchase some wine with their groceries. So the policy would have not reduced harm from alcohol, but would have massively inconvenienced shoppers.

Someone buying wine from a supermarket at 9.30 pm as part of their groceries is very different to someone rushing to the bottle store in the late evening to get more supplies for their party. Not all off licenses are the same.

Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull yesterday said he was disappointed with the decision and the council would consider appealing.

The decision sent a clear message alcohol legislation the Government had brought in could not work, Mr Cull said.

“We have now joined a growing list of councils who have been knocked back for providing solutions to their own circumstances.

The legislation is working fine. It is the politicians like Mr Cull who think that they can ignore the need for evidence that is the problem. The legislation does not allow Councils to set restrictions on a whim. Any restriction needs to have sound justification behind it and evidence of harm reduction.

In its written decision, the authority said the council provided “no evidence” that sales between 7am and 9am were associated with alcohol-related harm.

No evidence, because there is none.

It also noted that council liquor licensing co-ordinator Kevin Mechen acknowledged during the appeal hearing the council was under the mistaken impression the maximum hours of sale in the LAP were a guideline and exceptions could be granted.

“This misunderstanding is evidence on unreasonableness as the [restrictions] cannot be said to reflect the policy sought to be implemented.”

The DCC didn’t even understand the basic provisions.

The authority turned down an appeal from police and Dunedin Hospitality Group against the creation of a special licence for “entertainment premises”, allowing them to operate between 5pm and 4am.

The decision said neither presented “any evidence” to support their concerns.

Police’s failure to present evidence was “notable and somewhat surprising”, given they had submitted they would have to “stare down the barrel of another year of dealing with alcohol-fuelled assaults and disorder [that] we know could have been mitigated by this policy”.

Again no evidence.We saw this in Wellington also with Wellington Police trying to bully bars into one way policies and admitting to the Council they had no evidence for their approach.

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