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Council call for 24/7 park lands booze ban “unworkable”: Govt

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An Adelaide City Council push to ban the consumption of alcohol at all times in the park lands is “unworkable”, Attorney-General Vickie Chapman says – but has agreed to a three-month dry zone trial in the city’s south.

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The trial, which is expected to be formally approved by the State Government in the coming week, will impose a 24/7 alcohol ban in Blue Gum and Veale Parks in response to growing concerns by neighbouring residents and business owners that the city’s south has become prone to problem drinking and disruptive behaviour.

Those who wish to circumvent the ruling will be required to apply for a $93 short-term liquor licence from Consumer and Business Services at least one week in advance.

Currently, the consumption of alcohol is prohibited in the park lands from 8pm to 11am.

On Tuesday, the Adelaide City Council decided to ask the State Government to enforce a 24/7 ban across every park in the parks lands – including those bordering the city and the city squares.

The 24/7 ban has the backing of local Liberal MP Rachel Sanderson, who in an email sent to city councillors last week – seen by InDaily – included the results of a poll she conducted with residents in the city’s south, which showed 84.5 per cent supported a blanket alcohol ban “with special permits for residents and park users”.

“I confirm that I am very supportive of the proposed Council motion for a 24/7 dry zone of part or all of the park lands,” she wrote.

“The Attorney-General has a formal request underway for a temporary 24/7 dry zone for a portion of the park lands.

“This may well be an initial short-term measure to expedite the 24/7 dry zone, which will provide time to address other issues relating to this with the potential objective to consider all of the Parklands a 24/7 dry zone.”

Chapman’s office this morning confirmed to InDaily that it had applied for a temporary dry zone in Blue Gum and Veale Parks, but it said a blanket park lands ban would be “unworkable”.

“The Attorney-General has received representations on this issue from the Member for Adelaide and concerned members of the public, who have reported an increase in anti-social behaviour in Parks 20 and 21 of the Adelaide park lands, which are proximate to children’s sporting and residential facilities,” a spokesperson for Chapman said.

“She has also taken into consideration the motion of Adelaide City Council, but she is not considering making the entire southern parklands a dry zone or creating a new liquor licensing permit system to enable those with means to circumvent a proposed dry zone.

“These suggestions are unworkable.”

InDaily reported last month that there were growing concerns a group of about 50 Aboriginal people who arrived in Adelaide about two months ago were problem drinking, littering and causing public disturbance around Whitmore Square in the city’s south.

SA Police told InDaily there has been a recent increase in anti-social behaviour in the park lands, with eastern district patrols now deployed to Whitmore Square and South Terrace to reduce disruptive behaviour.

However, residents and business owners in the city’s south say they still feel unsafe in the area, with one café owner telling an Adelaide City Council meeting on Tuesday night that she often suffered anxiety attacks from witnessing violence, property damage, threats, begging, abuse and public defecation in and around her business.

“Our daily vision is men beating women, women beating women, women beating men – the most horrendous violence, something I’ve never witnessed before,” Where We Met café owner Kate Allen said.

“This is not an issue that we can tolerate anymore.”

Deputy Lord Mayor Alexander Hyde, who proposed the blanket alcohol ban, described it as a “band-aid fix to stop the noisy residents – the ones that email us (and) the ones that make complaints”.

Hyde has since clarified that his comment referred to previous council decisions to implement dry zones in the park lands: “I wouldn’t ever describe my own policy as a band-aid fix”.

He said a dry zone would also “start to solve the issue” of problem drinking by cutting off the supply of alcohol.

“Adelaide at the moment, colloquially, is referred to as ‘party town’,” he told the chamber on Tuesday.

“We’re seeing people come down from as far away as the Northern Territory… because they’ve been moved on as alcohol has become so difficult to consume and have on country in the Northern Territory and elsewhere in central Australia and places like Ceduna.

“At the moment, we’re enabling that bad behaviour by only having the dry zones at certain times.

“It’s not uncommon for people to return home to country once the supply has turned off.”

But Hyde admitted a dry zone would not fix the “root cause” of problem drinking and called on the council to also lobby Premier Steven Marshall to convene a task force to develop better services for Aboriginal people who temporarily reside in Adelaide.

That call has the backing of the Don Dunstan Foundation, which has written to Marshall requesting that he convene the task force as a matter of urgency.

At Tuesday’s meeting, the council’s manager of participation and inclusion Caro Mader said dry zones were “quite a blunt tool” that often resulted in the displacement of rough sleepers.

She said a “high-level taskforce” convened by the Liquor Licensing Commissioner viewed dry zones as a “last resort”.

“That task force has discussed a range of different mechanisms for supporting both Aboriginal community members who move between their home communities and the city, and those range of mechanisms to support those communities include transitional accommodation… and a range of social services,” she said.

North ward councillor Phil Martin said a blanket 24/7 park lands dry zone could deter people from visiting the city and would “move the problem (of anti-social behaviour) to another suburb of Adelaide”.

“Just banning all consumption of alcohol in the park lands – no more weddings, no more gatherings of family, that’s a big step,” he said.

“To impose of this without any kind of social services to assist in offsetting the displacement makes it difficult, impossible to support.”

Hyde this morning described Chapman’s rejection of a blanket park lands dry zone as a “do nothing approach”.

He said her support for a three-month trial was a “disappointing tokenisation effort” that would “do little to empower police to tip out alcohol being consumed by problem drinkers”.

“By only looking at part of the park lands we will merely see the problem shifted to other parks,” he said.

“By refusing to take leadership on the issue, the safety of those drinkers and others who wish to use the park lands is in real danger.”

The story has been updated. 

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