The management of alcohol consumption in the community is a complex and often emotive issue. I have lost track of the number of Alcohol Free Zones and Alcohol Prohibited Areas that have been approved during my time on Council. The list appears to grow rapidly and I remain sceptical of the effect of these measures.
This month Council will look at opening a new set of proposed AFZ and APAs for public consultation. While I am always open to community feedback and really value the input of residents I have always felt that the effect of these zones or areas is merely to move the problem to another area. In the past I have voted against these measures on this basis. This month I have asked that, when this issues returns to Council for approval, that the proposed streets be dealt with separately from the playgrounds listed in these proposals. I believe there is a strong case for making children’s playgrounds alcohol free.
More broadly, AFZs and APAs are a poor tool for engaging with problematic public drinking. I am on the public record as a critic of these measures because there is scant evidence that they do anything to curb drinking or crime. If anything, these measures act as a tool to move homeless and disadvantaged people on.
While most people drink responsibly alcohol is an incredibly damaging drug. If the City was serious about tacking problem drinking we would do better to explore measures such as ‘wet centres’ where a safe space is provided for problem drinkers where they are also able to access support services. I look forward to the day that Council can have a more constructive discussion about this issue.