Wollongong alcohol-free zones to be extended

Wollongong City Council is seeking to re-establish its alcohol-free zones, which prohibit street drinking in the city centre and foreshore, as well as streets and beach areas in several other suburbs.

Plans to renew the council’s existing zones when they expire this year are now on exhibition, showing maps for Wollongong, Dapto, Thirroul, Warrawong and parts of Helensburgh, Berkeley and Corrimal.

There are no changes to the existing zones proposed, with drinking banned in central Wollongong between Swan Street, Gladstone Avenue, the rail line, Stuart Park and the foreshore.

Wollongong Police crime manager Detective Inspector Joe Thone said the zones were extremely valuable for police, as about 80 per cent of police call-outs were for alcohol-related crimes.

‘‘In Wollongong, alcohol and alcohol-related crime is where most of our responses come through - whether that’s road and traffic, assaults in the mall after licensed premises close or domestic issues,’’ he said.

‘‘Alcohol-free zones are an early intervention strategy to stop the escalation of crime ... and they give police an aid to take some action where we wouldn’t necessarily have powers.

‘‘For example, if there’s an area in Wollongong where people are drinking in the street, and causing trouble ... it mightn’t be trouble enough that they commit any offence but the alcohol-free zones give us power to go up there, speak to them, dispose of the alcohol and issue warnings or give them a fine.’’

Insp Thone said they were particularly useful on public holidays like Australia Day, when people tended to gather to drink in large groups.

However, he also said the zones were not designed to prevent well-behaved citizens from activities like enjoying a quiet tipple on a picnic.

‘‘With any of these regulations, there needs to be an element of common sense,’’ he said.

‘‘So if you get mum and dad down the beach or on the foreshore having a glass of wine while having dinner, that’s not going to cause a problem for anybody and it’s not going to cause a problem for police.

‘‘You have to implement the laws in the spirit of the legislation.’’

Plans for the alcohol-free zones are open for public comment until June 29.

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