Wollongong council has voted to extend the city’s so-called alcohol-free zones for another four years, but deferred a decision on police “tip-out” powers at a new proposed area, Osborne Park.
The zonings expire on September 30. Faced with the task of rubber-stamping renewals, councillors lingered over multiple peculiarities linked to the rules at their Monday meeting.
The zones apply only to footpaths and roads within the designated area.
Other areas – like parks – can be designated “alcohol prohibited areas”. There were 18 of these in Wollongong as of July 2016.
No one can be fined or charged for drinking in either the zones or areas, but the status gives police the power to move on drinkers and tip out their booze.
Addressing councillors’ questions on Monday, Wollongong detective inspector Brad Ainsworth said these were discretionary powers.
“The family people out there with a picnic rug, having a beer or two and having dinner – of course we’re not going to do that. No, it targets certain people in certain areas doing the wrong thing. They’re making themselves known.”
Councillor David Brown noted public perception of the zones was at odds with reality.
“The name does not reflect what we’ve heard today from the policeman about how they’re actually administered,” said Cr Brown.
“I would love somebody at state level to have a look at the guidelines. If you’re going to have a few chardonnays on a blanket with a picnic, well that’s not what it’s for, but the name suggests that is what it’s for and every four years we get this huge confusion over it.”
Prohibited zones include the centre of Helensburgh, a small section of Corrimal, Wollongong between Gladstone Avenue, Swan Street and George Hanley Drive, a few streets in Berkeley and Warrawong, a bigger section of Dapto and – bizarrely – Thirroul in its entirety.
Councillor Mithra Cox made the case for postponing a decision to allow council to evaluate the success of the zones, in line with ministerial guidelines.
But councillors voted simply to renew. This will come at a cost of up to $15,000, for new signs and installation costs.
Council deferred its decision on whether to make Osborne Park a prohibited area, to allow the proposal another 28 days on public exhibition.