Friday, 14 November 2014

Police lobbying

Wellington Council's under fire for having consulted with bars when they were setting the Local Alcohol Policy.
Police are calling foul over a deal they say was struck between Wellington City Council and Hospitality NZ to allow the capital's bars to stay open later.
Internal council emails - obtained through court records this week - show many of the final details of the city's local alcohol plan were hammered out in a closed meeting with bar owners before it was opened to public submissions.
They also show the council and Mayor Celia Wade-Brown were in regular contact with local Hospitality NZ president Jeremy Smith, including consulting him on strategies for avoiding Government-imposed closing times.
The council has said it treated all "stakeholders" equally, and it also held meetings with police before the policy went out for public submissions.
It is understood police are upset about the industry's involvement in forming the proposed rules. During a hearing on the policy last week, a police lawyer said the council pushed a "deal" with the hospitality industry before the public had their say.
So do the Police reckon that nobody should be consulted in developing Local Alcohol Policies? Let's look back to Dunedin:
Much of the Dunedin City Council's plan seems to stem from the police, which proposed a range of bans from midnight including that on liquor shots.
Wellington's process seemed pretty inclusive.

Greg O'Connor notes that the move to local alcohol policies would enable more local lobbying from the Hospitality Association; I disagree with him on the net effect here. On alcohol, you have producer lobbies, bars, the Hospitality Association, retailers (supermarkets and bottle shops), local anti-alcohol activists, national health lobbyists, national anti-alcohol activists, local doctors, local police and the national police structure.

When policy is set nationally, the big producers can focus on one place: Wellington. It downweights the influence both of local pubs and retailers and of local anti-alcohol activists, but increases the influence of national-level lobby groups both for and against. It's harder for both local bars and for local activists to front at select committee hearings.

When it's set locally, it's harder for the large national lobby groups to hit all the different local policies; they'd instead only bother with the big cities or smaller ones that might form test-cases, unless they have unlimited resources to present at each local body. That downweights the producer lobbies, increases the influence of local retailers and bars, increases the influence of local anti-alcohol activists, reduces the influence of national health lobbyists except to the extent that they are called as police expert witnesses, increases the influence of local doctors and local police, and increases the influence of national police relative to national producer lobbies as the national-level policing lobby will back up their local officers.

On net, I think that tips things in favour of the pro-restriction side rather than the anti-restriction side. On evidence, that most Councils have pushed for earlier closing times than the national default also suggests that the antis have gained rather than lost influence.

That Wellington has considered things other than just what Police want doesn't really change that.

Disclosure: I was expert witness for the Hospitality Association on the effects of bar closing times.


  1. Locally-determined alcohol policy, especially that in which the cops have the primary input, is certainly a mess. Addington cup day is a prime example. The car park used to be full of boot parties, and in 26 years I never saw a single bit of trouble. Now these are verboten, as part of the club being a 'responsible host'. Instead, it organises all kinds of 'champagne breakfasts' etc on the course that create vast numbers of inebriates in high heells (and not-so-high heels). Worst of all, one cannot escape said inebriates by heading to the car park, since this is ruled out in the name of 'host responsibility'. A classic example of hitting the wrong target, while at the same time creating a problem where none existed.

    One might be inclined to think this has a lot less to do with host responsibility than it does with obtaining monopoly rights over alcohol provision, but I couldn't possibly say that...

  2. The Dunedin LAP which is being argued currently is probably the best example of the policy team basically writing the police's policy. It contains a number of completely un-researched items which have been rejected elsewhere because they were researched. On closer investigation the policy writer is, no surprises, an ex-policeman. It doesn't take much to join the dots there.

    Worse yet, the police's written submission in Dunedin was so poor as to be an utter embarrassment. Now that this is apparent they are fighting nasty in the media by calling foul over other submitters ideas. They dropped the ball something horrible so their response is to merely attack others without barely an ounce of evidence backing up the policies they are keen on. Prepare to be astounded here >