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Time called on aging liquor laws

Alcohol law is about to catch up with policies pushed through by Wairarapa councils in 2017.
The new alcohol control reforms championed by Justice Minister Kiri Allan will give councils greater power to set local liquor policies.
Despite the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 enabling councils to set local alcohol policies [LAPs], little has changed, with the alcohol industry exploiting a special appeals process to disrupt reform.
In 2017, the three Wairarapa councils led the charge combining to create a LAP. However, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland still do not have any local policies in place.
In a recent announcement, Allan said the law was not working as intended, with local communities unable to set their own rules to reduce alcohol harm, because they “are being blocked at every step by the booze industry”.
In a surprise move, Wairarapa-based executive director of The Brewers Association Dylan Firth agreed, acknowledging that “licensing provisions haven’t really worked under this act”.
He said that different regions were inconsistent in their application of the rules.
Wairarapa’s policy is that on-license holders must stop serving alcohol at 1am, rather than the national default, which is 4am.
“Wairarapa has done a fairly good job of getting a good evidence base, listening to the community and getting their LAP across the line,” Firth said.
“In some areas, LAPs have been held up by the appeals process; if the licensing process is improved, we’ll see better consistency across districts.
He said the industry was keen to participate and discuss the reforms to see improved standards for communities.
Alcohol Healthwatch found that 41 of the 67 councils have adopted a LAP.
Of all the draft policies, the two supermarket chains Foodstuffs and Woolworths appealed 86 per cent of them, and bottle stores appealed 72 per cent.
Allan said community groups had felt intimidated and harassed while under cross-examination by highly experienced lawyers representing the interests of those in the alcohol industry.
She said fierce legal opposition from the supermarkets and bottle stores has caused gridlock and delays, especially in major cities, for local communities attempting to enact LAPs in their area.
The supermarket chains appealed Auckland’s LAP all the way to the supreme court, costing Auckland ratepayers $1 million in legal fees.
The proposed law change was a victory for Chloe Swarbrick, whose Alcohol Harm Minimisation Bill will be debated in Parliament later this month.
Swarbrick said she was “stoked” by the government’s decision.
“It’s restoring local democracy by removing the special appeals processes abused by corporations.
“We keep fighting for evidence-based drug law reform,” Swarbrick said.
A 2018 report presented to the Alcohol Action Conference in Wellington estimated the financial costs of alcohol-related harm at $7.85 billion each year, falling well short of the annual alcohol excise revenue of $1.1 billion.
ON-LICENCE: An on-licence allows the sale and supply of alcohol for consumption on the premises
OFF-LICENCE: An off-licence allows the premises to sell and supply alcohol for consumption off the premises.

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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