Drowning in booze

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The number of places to buy booze in Queenstown has sky-rocketed in recent years, new figures reveal.

Info released by Queenstown’s council show there were 259 licensed premises in the resort in the past financial year.

That’s up a whopping 34 per cent on the 2014/15 year, when there were 192.

But council comms advisor Jimmy Sygrove says even if the authority wanted to cap numbers, there’s no easy way to do it under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

“[It] would have to be included in a draft Local Alcohol Policy which would go out for public consultation.

“This is not a straightforward process and often presents a number of challenges in high-growth areas such as the Queenstown Lakes district.”

An LAP appears to have been placed firmly on the backburner by the council, after some preliminary work in recent years.

Queenstown’s top booze-trouble prevention cop senior sergeant John Fookes says nearly all the resort’s police work is alcohol-related.

“Other than what takes place on the road, and even some of that is a result of alcohol consumption.”

Most licensed premises are well behaved, and when there are issues they’re sorted out, he says.

But he has noticed a trend in people drinking in public when the liquor ban isn’t in effect.

In 2014, Queenstown’s council introduced a ban covering Queenstown, Frankton, Arrowtown, Wanaka and Lake Hawea between 10pm and 6am every day.

Those hours are extended over Christmas and New Year, and Winter Festival.

Fookes says it can be difficult to police when big groups congregate in places like the Village Green or on the lakefront.

And social media means people can relocate somewhere quickly, he says.

Last week Mountain Scene revealed the number of people seeking addiction treatment in the resort is also on the rise.

Southern District Health Board figures show 136 people accessed its addiction assessment and treatment service locally last year.

In 2015, there were 65 people.

daisy.hudson@scene.co.nz