Legislation Taking Away Local Communities Say

NZ alcohol beverages council

The Government has passed new legislation on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (Community Participation) Bill.

Virginia Nicholls, NZABC executive director, said this new legislation was meant to give communities greater say over who gets a license in their area.

"Except, the legislation will not do this. It will probably make it harder for communities to have a say," said Nicholls.

Throughout the country, these processes are determined by District Licensing Committees (DLCs) in keeping with the relevant Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs).

The legislation focuses on the process an entity goes through to apply for a new license or renew an existing one.

This will now allow individuals or groups outside a region to object to a licence in another part of New Zealand, going against the sentiment for a community to decide on their local requirements.

As a result, there is anticipated to be an increased number of licensing hearings, which will be longer and more involved, with higher participant costs.

"The problem lies in the changes, which, instead of addressing alcohol-related harm, will significantly impact responsible business operators and exaggerate existing problems with the current licensing process."

Under the legislation and Local Alcohol Policies, this new legislation will allow proximity provisions to sites such as schools or churches. This could force the closure of a pre-existing on or off-licence, irrespective of whether it was well-run or valued by the community.

"A neighbourhood restaurant which has operated responsibly for years may find themselves under the new legislation, having their license refused because a new medical centre has opened along the road."

The legislation removes the party's ability to appeal Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) to the Alcohol Regulatory Licensing Authority (ARLA), which will restrict the appeal rights in the community. This ignores the ability to challenge decisions that unduly impact trading rights or may not be based on evidence.

"Removing the appeal provisions will not necessarily speed up the LAP process since most delays are caused by the use of legitimate judicial reviews which have nothing to do with the current Act".

The legislation has not balanced the different community groups, including small business owners, beer, wine and spirit suppliers, and those who consume beer, wine and spirits safely and responsibly.

"Since 2010, the number of licences nationwide has declined by more than 23 percent."

Nicholls continued that the research revealed that most New Zealanders drink responsibly. New Zealanders are drinking 25 percent less now than in the late 1970s. Further, harmful drinking, particularly among younger drinkers, has also fallen.