Drinking in public places: Community consultation on draft law

Yarra’s local law restricting the consumption of alcohol in public places will expire this October.

At Tuesday’s Council Meeting, Councillors approved a consultation process on a draft amendment to Yarra’s General Local Law. This is a proposal only and no decisions have been made. The draft will be adjusted as needed based on the feedback received from the community.

Yarra Mayor, Councillor Gabrielle de Vietri, said the current law had been widely criticised for unduly impacting on vulnerable members of the community. In 2019 Yarra Councillors directed officers to investigate alternatives to the current local law.

“We will be asking our community to consider and provide feedback on an alternate approach which seeks to manage large-scale events, protect our vibrant night-time economy, manage parks and gardens and address public amenity and community safety, while encouraging health-based responses for people who are experiencing vulnerability,” said Cr de Vietri.

“This option is vastly different from the current law in that it states areas where you will not be able to drink in public places, rather than the areas where you can drink.

“With this draft law we have aimed to be more responsive to the specific needs of our community, taking a targeted approach that focusses on areas where we know drinking can be a problem, rather than having a blanket ban.

“Importantly, the law also contains clear direction about how it should be enforced. It is vital that any local law we put in place does not target social or economic disadvantage or health issues, nor create barriers to assistance.”

Over the last two years Yarra City Council has carried out research, consultation with key stakeholders and benchmarking against other local councils. This has included targeted consultation with members of the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community, service providers, liquor licensees, traders and frontline responders such as Victoria Police, hospital emergency departments and outreach workers, including those who work with people experiencing homelessness.

What does the draft law propose?

Instead of being generally limited to parks and reserves, the new draft local law would allow responsible drinking throughout Yarra except for:

  • Within 10 metres from the boundary of any area which is licensed.
  • Within 10 metres of the entrance or exit to a building that services children and families.
  • From 9pm on the day before the AFL Grand Final to 9am the day after the game is played, in an area defined around Swan Street, Richmond.
  • From 9pm on 30 December to 9am on 1 January in any public place.
  • In parks and reserves between 9pm and 9am.

This approach is in line with a number of neighbouring local government areas, making it easy for residents and visitors to understand.

The draft law also proposes that in certain situations new restrictions can be prescribed by Council resolution. This would allow us to respond to exceptional circumstances as they arise and is only to be used where it is clear that there is an extraordinary and immediate risk to public safety related to the consumption of alcohol.

The Council would be required to follow specific rules as to when and how a prescription could be made, which are set out in a Procedure and Protocols Manual.

Have your say

We’re seeking community feedback on the draft local law until Thursday 19 August 2021. People who live, visit or work in Yarra are encouraged to share their thoughts on the key parts of the new draft law.

This feedback will help us further explore options for the new draft law and give us a deeper understanding of the needs of our broader community.

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