Changing the rules for selling alcohol – communities can influence new policies

Article by Councillor George Wood
The Auckland community now has a major opportunity to change the way alcohol outlets operate. The council has a huge programme of work to implement the new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 during 2013. The act received Royal Assent on 18 December.

This is the most comprehensive changes in liquor licensing in New Zealand since the changes when six o’clock closing was abolished in New Zealand back in the 1960s. The council is now working to get the new rules in place in a timely manner.

Communities now have a far greater ability to input their influence in the sale and supply of alcohol through the development of local alcohol policies. These policies can restrict or extend maximum opening hours, limit the location of licences, control the density of premises and impose conditions on licences e.g. one way door conditions.

One door policies will control the ability of patrons to leave premises and then gain re-entry to the same outlet or other outlets. It means that entry will be closed at a determined time.

It is now important to ensure that the Auckland region implements the provisions of the new act following the strict timeline that has been prescribed.

Auckland council has been working behind the scenes readying itself for the passing of the new act and is now well placed to bring on stream the changes over the next 12 months. The new act, which replaces the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, has a number of changes including:

• A new liquor licensing process with a move from national to local decision-making. Auckland Council will be setting up District Licensing Committees to make all necessary decisions at a local level;
• Greater ability of local communities to have a say in liquor licensing issues with expanded grounds of licensing criteria and grounds for objection;
• Ability of communities to set trading hours through the development of a local alcohol policy for both on-licences (restaurants, cafes, bars and taverns) and off-licenses (local liquor shops and large outlets) – the legislation prescribes that if no local hours are set then clubs, cafes and bars operating through the night must close by 4am;
• More restrictive off-licence criteria including numbers of outlets permitted in communities and where they can and can’t be located;
• Creation of conditions on licences including the implementation of one-way door conditions on taverns and bars after certain prescribed hours’
• Strengthening the rules about the types of stores eligible to sell alcohol and restricting supermarkets and grocery stores to displaying alcohol in a single area; and
• Self-funding licensing fees and greater sanctions against operators who are persistent non compliers of the licensing laws

First up Auckland Council will be conducting a wide ranging consultation process across the whole region seeking views from the community and liquor industry on the myriad of issues that will go into the draft Local Alcohol Policy. Auckland Council will be following best practice in this process.

Auckland Council is aiming to have the Local Alcohol Policy completed to enable implementation when this part of the legislation comes into force on 18 December 2013.

We would have liked the ability to make these changes sooner than proposed in the new legislation. Auckland Council has a comprehensive understanding of the issues having completed a Local Alcohol Policy Research Report in 2012. The new act has been a long time in the making but now it is important that Auckland embraces the changes in a positive manner.

Councillor Wood, who is Chairman of the Auckland Council’s Community Safety Forum, is a former North Shore police area commander

Link to Local Alcohol Policy Research Report 2012
http://www.aucklandcouncil.govt.nz/EN/planspoliciesprojects/plansstrategies/Councilstrategies/Documents/alcoholharmreductionstrategy.pdf

 

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