Kiwis' drinking culture criticised as Auckland police ramp up presence in city due to disorder

"It's not all about your level of drunkenness for the night."
"It's not all about your level of drunkenness for the night." Photo credit: Getty.

A group working to reduce alcohol-related harm says Kiwis still have an issue with placing drinking at the "centre of the occasion" as police increase their presence in central Auckland after two weekends of disorder.

Auckland City district commander Supt Karyn Malthus revealed on Thursday night officers had observed an increase in assaults and disorders over the last two weekends in the central city, after the Government lifted COVID-19 restrictions on bars and nightclubs. 

Malthus said they were being "fuelled by excessive alcohol consumption" and more officers would be present in the CBD this weekend to "ensure the safety of those coming into the for nightlife over the coming weekends". 

"Police have been working with our partners, including city bar owners, to look at how processes can be improved to move people out of venues efficiently come closing time."

Executive director of Alcohol Healthwatch Nicki Jackson told Newshub Kiwis continue to have an issue with preloading. She says excessive drinking ultimately can lead to harm coming to the consumer as well as others. 

"In New Zealand, it is all about making drinking the centre of the occasion and I think we need to do something about that. It's not all about your level of drunkenness for the night - your night out is about a whole other range of experiences."

She said New Zealand could address excessive drinking by raising the price of alcohol and finding an earlier closing time for bars, many of which can trade until 4am in Auckland.

"We know that many people who are going and drinking in town and drinking excessively have preloaded at home and that is because it is so cheap. What we really need to do is address the price of alcohol in our country, to reduce the differential between bars and bottle stores and supermarkets.

"Until we address the price of alcohol we are still going to have high levels of alcohol-related violence in our CBD.

"We can do something in this country about our closing hours of our bars. They are still too long. Police are subject to increased risk of harm because the closing hours are too late.

"Other countries have taken strong action. They have reduced alcohol-related violence in their CBDs and they have improved public safety by bringing the closing hour earlier. That is something that we should be urgently looking at."

She said bars and pubs can help by promoting low-alcohol beverages and alcohol-free beverages. 

Malthus said one incident on Auckland's Fort St last week saw police called to a disorder incident in which an individual was allegedly knocked unconscious and multiple fights broke out. Officers which came to the assistance "were met with verbal abuse and had alcohol bottles thrown at them". 

"One officer suffered minor cuts after a bottle shattered against a nearby police vehicle.

"Police were trying to disperse those fighting and clear an area so that person could receive medical assistance."

She said a number of arrests had been made in relation to various assaults and victims in these cases had suffered serious injuries. 

"In some cases it is very fortunate that Police were not dealing with fatalities here."

Police still want Kiwis to have a "fun night out" and provided several tips such as having a plan to get home safely, sticking with your group of friends and leaving alcohol at home due to the liquor ban.