Mayoral candidates say the number of liquor outlets in South Auckland is an issue, but disagree about how to tackle it. The issue was debated at Māngere’s Ngā Whare Waatea Marae on Wednesday night.
The event was attended by Viv Beck, Efeso Collins, Craig Lord and Leo Molloy and moderated by Radio Waatea host Shane Te Pou.
A member of the public asked the candidates what they would do about the sheer number of liquor outlets in South Auckland. Te Pou shared her concerns. “On each corner there is a liquor store and on the other corner there is a pokie bar,” he said.
Molloy described it as a toxic mix. “I would strip every pokie joint out of Auckland in a flash if I could. They prey on vulnerable people who can least afford it.”
He said to control the number of liquor outlets, people in the community needed to stand up and contest any new liquor licence applications they were opposed to.
Beck said liquor licensing was a complicated issue and referred to the ongoing legal action Auckland Council has been locked in with Foodstuff and Countdown over its local alcohol policy.
“I don’t think it’s good for a community if you’ve got something that is harming your people,” she said. “It’s something the council will have to have a really good look at.”
Collins said the majority of liquor outlets and pokie bars were in the city’s poorest areas, like South and West Auckland.
But he said Green Party MP Chloe Swarbrick’s push to use a private members bill to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act was an important step in the right direction.
A woman from Manurewa asked the candidates what they would do to address the youth homelessness problem in South Auckland, which she described as an “abomination”.
Collins said he had met with the Government and Associate Minister of Housing Marama Davidson to talk about the homeless problem on a number of occasions.
He said during the previous Covid-19 lockdowns there was a drop in the number of homeless people because of the temporary emergency housing the Government provided. But after the restrictions ended, the number of rough sleepers increased.
“What we’ve got to do is work much closer and stronger with the Crown and the social agencies, the likes of the Salvation Army, Vision West, Lifewise,” Collins said. “All those groups are doing great things, but they need support as well and the council can play a pivotal role in terms of leadership.”
Lord said the woman wouldn’t like what he had to say on the issue. “I fully believe Auckland Council’s job is to provide a core service and not a social service. However, it is our job to lobby the Government for the things they aren’t doing on our behalf,” he said. “If I was elected mayor I would be talking to the experts in that area, instead of saying we’re going to solve it.”
He said it was a central Government problem, but the mayor should be “shouting from the rooftops” about it.