Media Release: Achieving an exciting and safer nightlife in New Zealand

Media Release
20 August, 2019

To reinvigorate nightlife in our cities we need to take a more modern and balanced approach, says a report released today by The New Zealand Initiative.

Living after Midnight: For a better night-time environment highlights New Zealand’s antiquated way of restricting life after dark. Our current approach fails to make use of the social and economic opportunities a neatly managed nightlife can offer while addressing existing concerns.

Relative to the population, the number of bars and clubs has decreased nationwide between 2000 and 2018 by -2% and -7%, respectively. In 2008, New Zealand had more bars and taverns than today. This was in times where there were 600,000 fewer inhabitants in New Zealand.

“Local alcohol policies restrict, not enhance, opportunities for an exciting, vibrant and safe nightlife,” says report author Natanael Rother. “Instead of councils being able to use local knowledge to create suitable night-time environments in their communities, they have been given a set of rules and regulations to minimise harm without weighing up the benefits of a night-time economy.”

“Contrary to common belief, empowering nightlife has not only brought about solutions for some cities, but also a positive way of facing problems of nuisance, crimes and alcohol abuse,” says Mr Rother.

The report highlights two cities that have chosen pro-active ways of enabling a thriving nightlife:

  • Melbourne has found a way to deal with the colliding interests of residents and bar owners. Its agent of change principle makes sure that new venues and housing property are fit for the respective neighbourhoods
  • Amsterdam has become famous for appointing a night mayor who establishes a voice in favour of the night-time economy while also listening to other interests, for example, residents.

Living after Midnight makes some relatively modest policy recommendations for a more successful night-life in New Zealand:

  • Appoint night mayors to balance various legitimate interests
  • Improve local decision-making to implement processes that support resolution of difficulties
  • Tackle public health issues with specific programmes to help those who need it the most. Targeted initiatives such as South Dakota’s 24/7 sobriety project are a valid inspiration.  

In times of ever-increasing population density in cities, today’s problems will become even more pressing for policymakers tomorrow. The proposals and the international experiences described in the report will not solve every problem of New Zealand’s nightlife. We believe, however, that they are the first steps towards a more balanced way of dealing with the nightlife.


Natanael Rother and Dr Oliver Hartwich are available for comment. Please contact:

Simone White, Communications Officer
P: 04 494 9109 / 021 2937 250

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