NEWCASTLE STUCK WITH ‘SOLUTION’

In Trade Restriction by Clyde Mooney

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The NSW Independent Liquor & Gaming Authority has issued notice of its final decision regarding the review of the so-called “Newcastle solution”.

The Authority (ILGA) commissioned an independent review by Mr Jonathan Horton QC, involving consultation with stakeholders including NSW Police, public health bodies, academics, licensed venues, industry bodies, private individuals and special interest groups.

Public consultation took place from November 2017 to February 2018, bringing 92 written submissions from parties on both sides of the argument, including a stand-out facts-based submission by the AHA outlining arguments such as the effects of lockouts on the night-time economy.

As mandated by the Act, in late April ILGA released its assessment and intentions, which involved changing very little. Stakeholders including the 14 licensed pubs in the area were given a further 21 days to respond.

Today’s announcement confirmed ILGA’s prior decision, which largely disregarded the findings of Mr Horton QC, recommending the relaxation of multiple aspects of the trade restrictions, and evidence submitted showing the majority of the reduction in violence in Newcastle is attributed to the formation of the Newcastle Entertainment Precinct (NEP) in 2011, three years after the lockout laws were implemented.

ILGA Chair Philip Crawford says the decision gives certainty to everyone.

“As we indicated in our initial response, we believe there is a strong case for maintaining the restrictions that currently apply to the 14 hotels, including patron lockouts and the requirement to stop serving alcohol 30 minutes before closing.”

The second round of submissions did bring about one concession, ILGA agreeing to vary the condition concerning RSA marshals, such that only venues trading after midnight need to employ one, but still starting from 11pm. This previously applied to all 14 venues, regardless of their closing time.

The only other changes resulting from the entire review process are:

  • All pubs no longer require a common radio network
  • Plans of Management will be revised as required in consultation with police, rather than suffering quarterly audits

While the greatest achievement of the nine-month exercise was the elimination of walkie-talkies, the ongoing parliamentary inquiry into the decimation of the live music industry continues.

The inquiry has received 422 public submissions and already visited Sydney, Wollongong and Byron Bay, rolling through Newcastle this month.

A vocal advocate is Newcastle MP Tim Crackanthorp, who told Nine News he wants compromise for business.

“When people move into these areas they need to know that cafes, restaurants and night clubs are there, you have to expect it when you move in.

“We want to make sure Newcastle’s voice is heard in the inquiry and comes through in the recommendations.”

Newcastle hotelier and President AHA NSW Newcastle and Hunter branch, Rolly De With, sees ILGA’s decision as inappropriate for the city, experiencing massive infrastructure and residential development.

“While we welcome small administrative changes to the 2008 restrictions, we are disappointed the ILGA-commissioned Horton Report has not been accepted by the Authority. A decade on, ILGA is considering continuing with one-size-fits-all blanket measures, rather than accepting Dr Horton’s view.”