Extra liquor outlets add to drunken incidents

26 April 2010

As the Law Commission is due to release its recommendations on an overhaul of New Zealand’s liquor laws, new research has been released showing the impacts extra liquor outlets can have on a community.

Researchers have developed a model linking extra liquor outlets with increased police activity. The Waikato University researchers have applied the model to Manukau City and found the addition of a single extra off-licence resulted in an extra 60 to 65 police events or incidents in the year to June 2009. Each additional club or bar resulted in an extra 98 to 101 police events or incidents, while each additional restaurant or café resulted in an extra 24 to 29 police events or incidents.

The research also showed that in Manukau, off-licence liquor outlets tended to locate in areas of high social deprivation and high population density. Higher off-licence density was in turn associated with lower alcohol prices and longer opening hours. On-licence liquor outlets tended to locate in main centres and areas of high amenity value.

The research was carried out by the Population Studies Centre at Waikato University. It was commissioned and funded by the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC), and supported by Manukau City Council. The period considered was from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.

An initial database of liquor licensees was obtained from Manukau City Council in January 2009. Data for selected indicators of social harm were obtained from the New Zealand Transport Agency (traffic crashes), Counties Manukau District Health Board (accident and emergency event data, and alcohol-related admissions to Middlemore Hospital), and New Zealand Police (police attendances) for the period 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009.

ALAC Chief Executive Officer Gerard Vaughan said in order for local body planning to effectively address ways to minimise alcohol-related harm, information about the impact of liquor outlets on local areas was needed.

“We have now for the first time a New Zealand model that can be used by local authorities to map the impacts of extra outlets.”

Mr Vaughan said the research comes just weeks before the Law Commission is due to release its recommendations to Government on reforming New Zealand’s alcohol laws.

“Options being considered by the Commission to recommend to Government include widening the grounds for refusing liquor licences to include things like outlet density. This model would allow communities to map the effect extra licences would have in their area and give them a real say in what happens in their neighbourhood.”

Waikato University research associate Dr Michael Cameron said although the Manukau results were specific to that area, the model that had been developed could be used in other areas to determine what impact extra liquor outlets would have on a district.

The research showed higher liquor outlet density of both on and off-licences was associated with higher numbers of total police events.

In particular, off-licence density was associated with higher levels of anti-social behaviour, drug and alcohol offences, family violence, property abuse, property damage, traffic offences and motor vehicle accidents.

Density of clubs and bars was associated with higher levels of anti-social behaviour, dishonesty offences, drug and alcohol offences, property abuse, property damage, sexual offences, traffic offences, and violent offences.

Density of restaurants and cafes was associated with higher levels of dishonesty offences, property abuse, traffic offences, and motor vehicle accidents.

Total police events were based on all police attendances recorded in the New Zealand Police database from 1 July 2008 to 30 June 2009. (A police attendance may not necessarily lead to anyone being charged with an offence.)

Manukau City Council Senior Policy analyst Paul Wilson said the research supported what the community had been telling the council and would be used to inform the new Auckland Council on how alcohol-related harm could be addressed.

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