Councillors disagree on 6pm start for Queenstown-Lakes alcohol no-go zones

by Kim Bowden - Aug 10, 2023

Think twice before adding a few beers or a bottle of wine to the picnic basket this summer, as new alcohol bans will be introduced across the Queenstown Lakes District. 

Where previously alcohol bans have kicked in at 8pm, this will now be brought forward to 6pm.

However, not all councillors voted to adopt the revised Alcohol-Free Areas in Public Places Bylaw, with some pointing out 6pm is “the middle of the afternoon” in the height of a southern summer.

There was concern from some of the ‘no-voters’ there wasn’t strong enough evidence to support all of the changes, which in their view will penalise otherwise law-abiding people.

Rubbish piles up in Queenstown following Christmas Day celebrations in 2017 (QLDC documents/NZ Police).

However, the bylaw changes were passed by a slim majority of councillors.

The year-round, 6pm to 6am bans will be put in place for parts of Queenstown, Wānaka, Frankton, Arrowtown and Hāwea, as recommended by a hearings panel chaired by deputy mayor Quentin Smith.

The panel recommended a number of significant tweaks to the draft bylaw that went out for public consultation earlier this year.

Notably, the draft version included an 8pm to 8am ban and the removal of bans for parts of Frankton, Arrowtown and Hāwea due to a lack of sufficient evidence to support these, and allowed for public drinking in Wānaka on Christmas Day and Boxing Day.

Wānaka has now been included in the Christmas Day-Boxing Day ban, alongside a ban in Queenstown.

Mr Smith says the evidence of alcohol-related harm and disorder provided by police to the hearings panel made them comfortable with their recommendations. 

If anything, it was a “softer approach” they opted for, with police calling for a 24-hour, 365-day ban on public drinking in problem areas, he says.

However councillor Melissa White queried if in “going for the middle ground” the panel’s recommendations have “missed the mark a bit”. 

She worries there isn’t enough evidence linking public drinking between 6pm and 8pm to problematic behaviour, yet the shift is a “big disadvantage” for others who may look to enjoy a casual drink outside in public. 

“6pm for Queenstown in the summer is the middle of the afternoon.” 

The view was echoed by councillor Lisa Guy, who says the law change may result in “good lawbreakers”, referencing parents who opt for an outside picnic with a beer or wine over taking their children to a licensed premise.

The bylaw change will “harshly penalise” these people, she says.

She also cautioned whether the lift of the ban at 6am is too close to closing time for some nightspots, meaning drunk partygoers may spill out into lakeside locations and legitimately continue drinking in public until 8am.

However councillor Gavin Bartlett, who sat on the hearings panel, says by bringing the time forward the council will “curtail two hours of someone’s drinking time” and the evidence presented to them suggests this will be helpful. 

As for a river or lakeside picnic: “You can still have a picnic with your family, you just can’t drink alcohol,” he says.

Main images: Pixabay

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