Could this be the booze-related good news we’ve been waiting for? Well, no, the lockout’s not lifted. But at least you’ll be able to drink in more public places.
The City of Sydney has recommended several changes to existing alcohol-free zones (applying to streets, footpaths and public roads) and alcohol-prohibited areas (parks and open spaces). Incidentally, while they differentiate between alcohol-free zones and alcohol-prohibited areas, the penalty’s the same for both.
The council asked for residents’ feedback on the proposed changes, which would see the number of alcohol-free zones cut or consolidated from 399 to 261. Eighty per cent of the public who wrote to the City supported the changes.
Kate Murray is manager of the council’s City Business & Safety. As she points out, “Drinking does not necessarily lead to antisocial behaviour.” She gives us the example of families enjoying a picnic in the park as one of the ways the council envisions people using the spaces flagged for revision.
An alcohol-free zone keeps its status for a maximum of four years, at which point it will be reassessed on its merits. Murray explains that since the way people use a space changes over time, policy revisions should reflect those changes.
It’s tempting to label these proposals as ironic, considering the lockout laws came into place to help curb alcohol-induced violence on the street. But it wasn’t the City of Sydney that brought in the lockout laws, and perhaps this is exactly the kind of thing that those against the lockout laws want – trust that they can have safe, sensible fun while drinking.
Either way, Murray insists the changes are unrelated to the lockout laws. "In the lockout zone, CBD and Kings Cross, there are no changes,” she says. “A lot of the changes are to suburban streets."
New statistics have revealed that the increase of zones since 2009, under the watch of Lord Mayor Clover Moore, has had little effect on crime. But not everyone agrees with that. The president of the Police Association of NSW, Scott Weber, claims the zones help prevent crimes such as malicious damage, stealing and violence. “Removing alcohol-free zones will make the job of local police more difficult,” he says.
In addition to the removal of 62 zones, the City is recommending 77 zones be consolidated into 34. For example, where each block of a street counts as its own zone, the entire street will now count as a singular alcohol-free zone.
The council will take the submissions from the public into account, as well as police concerns and crime data. If the revisions are accepted, the changes will come into effect on July 3.
Perhaps the Premier will embrace a similar 180 when considering the revisions to the lockout laws.