Steady as she goes on alcohol policy

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MORNINGTON Peninsula Shire has a new Alcohol Management Policy, but it reads the same as the one adopted this time last year.

Just three submissions from members of the public were received before the shire made its annual review of the alcohol policy.

One submitter was unhappy about not being able to take a bottle of red wine to the beach for a barbecue without breaking a shire local law, one complained about cigarettes at licensed outlets, and one wanted footpaths improved.

The wine drinker stated: “I would like us to act as a mature community – I do not want to see a ‘nanny state’ developed. I want to be able to go down to our great foreshore facilities and have a barbecue and a glass of red wine.”

The footpath submitter said his mother had had two hip replacement operations and was “unable to walk along the current footpaths confidently”.

“This has also limited her access to the beach front. It would be wonderful if the paths could be improved enough so that elderly people could walk without fear of tripping over,” they wrote.

The footpath submission was redirected to the shire’s infrastructure strategy department.

The small number of submissions would appear to indicate that residents and ratepayers think the shire’s alcohol policy is about right. No major changes were made to the draft policy that went public in May.

One of the pillars of the policy is to “provide a clear and transparent approach to alcohol management and guide decision-making surrounding alcohol provision and consumption”.

Restricting the number of new liquor outlets is an area where the shire has had limited success. In recent times it successfully refused a liquor licence for a retail outlet in Moorooduc but approved one in Mt Eliza in the under-construction Eliza Square shopping centre. The village already has three liquor shops, a hotel and five licensed restaurants and cafes, all within about 300 metres of the new liquor shop being built.

In April 2011, the state government introduced “cumulative impact” regulations to guide planning approval of liquor outlets.

Cumulative impact refers to the positives or negatives of putting licensed premises such as hotels, bars, clubs and liquor shops in the one area.

The shire council stuck its neck out in 2011 when it knocked back a First Choice (Wesfarmers/Coles) liquor “superstore” in Rosebud, the 10th liquor outlet along a three-kilometre strip of Point Nepean Rd.

Coles challenged the decision in the state planning tribunal VCAT. It was a test case as the shire was the first council to refuse a liquor shop using “cumulative impact” regulations. Coles won.

When the draft policy was released in May for public comment, councillors were told that peninsula residents were more at risk of alcohol-related harm than elsewhere in the state.

The shire had more alcohol-related road accidents, more ambulance call-outs to alcohol-related incidents, more hospital emergency department admissions, and more hospital admissions as a result of alcohol than other areas.

Examples of the shire’s role in controlling, managing and limiting the consumption of alcohol include bans on drinking in public places on New Year’s Eve, as well as in streets near The Pillars rock jumping area at Mt Martha, and before and after council meetings.

First published in the Southern Peninsula News – 8 August 2017

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