Alcohol related anti-social behaviour is a serious issue that demands evidence based, innovative solutions. I am not convinced that Alcohol Free Zones and Alcohol Prohibited Areas do anything to address problematic street drinking.
The City of Sydney has conducted a review of Alcohol Free Zones and Alcohol Prohibited Areas across the local government area. Until now there has been 351 Alcohol Free Zones and 48 Alcohol Prohibited Areas. 48 Alcohol Free Zones and 14 Alcohol Prohibited Areas have now been removed and others have been consolidated.
My voting record to-date on Alcohol Free Zones demonstrates my lack of faith in this approach. Alcohol Free Zones disproportionately target Aboriginal people and disadvantaged people. They prevent local residents from enjoying the odd drink in public spaces as an alternative to visiting pricey inner city bars. Wealthy people can drink to excess in clubs and bars but people having picnics or a casual drink get moved on.
The Police have existing powers to deal with problem drinking in public places, wherever that may be. Alcohol Free Zones merely encourage Police to move people on to other areas or inside homes. There is slim evidence to suggest that this produces better social outcomes. They are a blunt instrument being used to deal with a complex issue.
While I am supportive of the reduction and consolidation of the number of Alcohol Free Zones I simply cannot support it as an ongoing measure to tackle problem drinking.
In my own area of Redfern Waterloo the used bottles and cans left in public places are proof that this system of erecting street signs declaring a ban on the consumption of alcohol have failed as a deterrent. Where problem drinking occurs Police presence is still required, regardless of the location.
I acknowledge that there are a small number of communities in problematic neighbourhoods support the Alcohol Free Zones. I do not wish to stand in the way of local decision making and I do not seek to oppose the Alcohol Free Zones that the community feel are helpful. A quick assessment of the submissions received by the City during this review demonstrate that many of these Alcohol Free Zones are not in line with community thinking.
It is important to acknowledge there were 117 submissions opposing Alcohol Free Zones as well as the 29 in support. Most importantly, we need to continue our work with Police, Government, civil society and our neighbourhoods to address the disadvantage and health issues that lie behind problem drinking.