Opinion: Afterdark plan risks increase in grog-fuelled CBD violence

ANOTHER ROUND: Newcastle's police and health officials have warned against watering down the city's alcohol restrictions ... why are they being ignored?
ANOTHER ROUND: Newcastle's police and health officials have warned against watering down the city's alcohol restrictions ... why are they being ignored?

THE nearly fatal head injuries suffered by a Lake Macquarie Roosters soccer player from a recent one-punch assault (Herald, 8/5) should be a sober reminder to those with a vested interest in weakening the life-saving package of Newcastle’s modest alcohol controls.

Newcastle Council, the AHA and their supporters appear selectively deaf to the dire warnings from our town’s most trusted and respected senior police, health officials, University/HMRI researchers, 400 public and private doctors that Newcastle still has a problem with alcohol-related violence with a rate of assaults in the CBD nearly 10 times the NSW average.

These representatives rightly assert that reducing these unacceptable levels of alcohol-fuelled harms must be our collective No.1 priority.

Why can’t those demanding a weakening in controls handle this inconvenient truth?

In my opinion, council’s proposed glossy Afterdark strategy is a nightmare.

I believe it promotes longer and stronger drinking, a further increase in outlet density (a known predictor of alcohol harms) and the generation of more unacceptable noise and anti-social disturbances.

The council also appears to have failed to inform the Horton review that it has a pecuniary interest in a CBD pub – the Queens Wharf Brewery – from which it receives rent as landlord.

The review inexplicably preferred submissions from the council and the alcohol industry as well as a misleading change.org on-line petition, over those of our above most trusted experts and a Hunter New England Health survey of real community sentiment.

Short memories also extend to the new tourism boss  pedalling the nonsensical alcohol industry line that the decade long variation in closing/lockout times and modest drink controls confuses patrons to an extent justifying weakening alcohol controls.

This is another example of vested interests king-hitting the golden goose.

It is precisely the integral package of conditions and reduced violence and crime that is the key contributor to the renaissance of our CBD, live music and 110 per cent  increase in a diverse range of licensed restaurants, smaller bars.

The council’s Afterdark strategy and complex model to ‘incentivise’ all outlets with exemptions to sell more grog risks becoming a literal ‘overkill’.

Council appears to have abandoned the interests, safety and amenity of current and future inner-city families.

They take no account of the likely increase in offensive loud noise and conduct of highly intoxicated patrons migrating between more later trading licensed premises. 

Council failed to enforce DA noise conditions against the Brewery.

Residents cannot expect any improvement in council’s double standard approach to enforcement and compliance given its placation of dominant alcohol industry interests.

The Newcastle community expects fair, impartial, inclusive and transparent civic leadership – supported by a strong and open governance process.

Inner-city residents and families have demonstrated their accommodation of reasonable change.

They don’t want a council that surrounds itself with advisors from only those who financially benefit from its untested alcohol harm prevention policies.

Tony Brown is a voluntary community advocate evidence based alcohol harm prevention