Call for tighter booze laws

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A GROUP of south east Melbourne councils, including Kingston Council, wants family violence and “alcohol-related harm” taken into account when considering applications for new liquor stores.

Members of the South-East Melbourne Council Group – Mornington Peninsula, Frankston, Kingston, Casey, Cardinia, Greater Dandenong – have been joined by Maroondah and Knox in seeking the necessary changes to the Planning and Environment Act 1987.

The councils are lobbying Victorian Planning Minister Richard Wynne under the South-East Melbourne Council Group umbrella for increased planning powers to control “packaged liquor outlets”.

If their efforts are supported, liquor shops will have to provide social impact statements along with their planning applications.

Under current planning laws “potential harm” caused by the proliferation of liquor outlets does not present a strong enough reason to refuse a permit.

The councils want the planning rules changed so they can force liquor outlets into shopping centres (“where they are accessible but not convenient”) and discourage them opening “in areas of highest social disadvantage”, near schools or health services which provide drug, alcohol or mental health treatment.

Research by consultants hired by the municipalities has shown a strong link between liquor stores and violence. Off-premises liquor outlets “significantly” outnumber licensed venues, leading to the belief “that packaged liquor outlet density is contributing to higher levels of alcohol consumption, particularly in the home and other private settings”, a report to Mornington Peninsula Shire by statutory planning team leader Rosa Zouzoulas states.

Police statistics showed increasing violence in the municipalities now seeking Mr Wynne’s help.

Ms Zouzoulas said the municipalities had been given “unprecedented access to data that reveals crime hot spots”.

She said the project was the first of its type in Australia to investigate “correlations between packaged alcohol and increase in alcohol-related crime and violence”.

Four problem areas identified in the study included Frankston’s central business district and the “tourist node” at Rosebud. Cranbourne and the area extending from Dandenong to Narre Warren were also singled out as places of “vulnerability to alcohol-related crime”.

Chair of the shire’s planning services committee Cr Simon Brooks said in a prepared news release “local government has a legitimate and important role to play in addressing alcohol-related harm”.

The shire mayor Cr Bryan Payne said the proposed planning changes “will have lasting positive outcomes that will minimise the impact of alcohol-related harm to our community and increase safety and wellbeing”.

First published in the Chelsea Mordialloc Mentone News – 20 December 2017

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