Clash over alcohol restrictions

Taylar AmoniniNorth West Telegraph
Town of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco is steadfast on his alcohol restriction plans.
Camera IconTown of Port Hedland Mayor Camilo Blanco is steadfast on his alcohol restriction plans. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

The Hedland Liquor Accord and the Town of Port Hedland mayor are at loggerheads over stricter alcohol restrictions.

Hedland Liquor Accord chairman Brent Rudler denied Mayor Camilo Blanco’s claim the accord had “opted to do nothing”, and said proposed restrictions were too stringent and the accord had not been properly consulted over a request to the liquor licensing director before it was sent.

But Mr Blanco responded to criticism by saying people needed to remember why these actions were being taken.

“Let’s not forget why we need to go down this road,” he said. “Domestic violence is up by 300 per cent, domestic assaults up 230 per cent, non-domestic assaults up over 100 per cent.

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“Alcohol is the No.1 one cause leading to these figures.”

The accord last met on January 31, with members deciding to defer a decision on the Takeaway Alcohol Management System or any other suggestions until a report came back from a Kimberley trial of the scheme.

Mr Rudler said it was time for both sides of the story.

“The members of the Port Hedland Liquor Accord operate under some of the tightest liquor restrictions in Western Australia,” he said.

“At no point, contrary to the mayor’s misinformation, did we reject the proposal of TAMS or any other suggestion that may help combat the antisocial situation in South Hedland.

“It’s now become clear the mayor only attended the meeting to appear to engage with us as a local industry and the truth is the mayor has already requested a section 64 review prior to even that meeting on January 31 taking place.”

The criticism comes after it was revealed this week that a request had been made to the director of liquor licensing by the police commissioner seeking to impose conditions on licences in Port and South Hedland and surrounding communities.

The impositions, which come under section 64 of the Liquor Licensing Act 1988, include stricter conditions than are currently in place, with the most concerning for licensed venues and the public being the inability of organisations in Hedland to sell full-strength beer and ready-to-drink beverages, also known as pre-mixes.

According to the proposed new restrictions, beer and RTDs sold as packaged liquor will be limited to 3.5 per cent alcohol content or less.

The request, which was received on January 20, was sent in collaboration with and supported, it seems, by Mr Blanco after a letter was written from his office on January 18, 13 days before the liquor accord meeting.

Mr Blanco said he “started this conversation with the police and liquor accord when the previous mayor resigned”.

“The Hedland Liquor Accord agreed in principle last October to support the TAMS being implemented and they have been dodging the implementation ever since,” he said.

“I support the section 64 and still do because years of talk have not improved the situation in Hedland. I was quite clear in the Mayoral Election that I was going to address the issue and the town voted me in by clear majority. This is the road we are taking, mandated by the voting of people of Hedland.”

Liquor Stores Association of WA Government relations and communications manager Peter Peck weighed in on the issue, saying at this point the mayor and the Police Enforcement Unit had jumped the gun.

“At no point have the Port Hedland Liquor Accord refused to comply with section 114 or requirements from police, and the liquor licensing enforcement aren’t getting any push-back from any party,” he said.

“I don’t understand why then we have to go take it to section 64, which is basically using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

“At no point have the accord rejected the TAMS, they’re doing what any sensible government department would do and waiting for a report of the trial before they make a decision. It’s not a quick-fix issue.”

Mr Blanco has also said he has had a meeting with Coles in recent weeks where he has requested for Liquorland to close for a trial period to investigate where the root cause of the problem stems from.

At the time of print Liquorland was unable to respond.

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