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The Long Wait: Auckland's Battle for Local Alcohol Policy

Saturday 6 May 2023, 1:40PM

By Alcohol Healthwatch

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AUCKLAND

It’s been a long eight year wait but today’s Supreme Court decision paves the way for Auckland to finally get its Local Alcohol Policy.

Local Alcohol Policies are aimed at giving communities a greater say on local decision-making on alcohol licensing. However, an appeal provision in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act has created conflict between big corporate interests and the wishes of the community.

The two supermarket chains Woolworths and Foodstuffs have kept Auckland’s Local Alcohol Policy tied up in litigation since it was publicly notified in 2015.

During the public consultation on Auckland’s Draft Local Alcohol Policy the majority of submitters wanted further reduction of opening hours for off-licences, and 71% supported supermarket hours being the same as other off-licences.

Alcohol Healthwatch Acting Executive Director Rebecca Williams says that the ongoing litigation by members of the alcohol industry (in this case supermarkets Woolworths and Foodstuffs) has delayed the implementation of Auckland’s Local Alcohol Policy for 8 years.

"Today’s decision is more of a whew than a woohoo," says Williams. "It has been a costly, frustrating and tiresome wait.

"The evidence is clear that reducing the trading hours of alcohol can reduce alcohol-related harm, and the community supported this in their submissions. These big corporations were dismissive of community views and the outcome of the democratic process thus delaying the implementation of the Local Alcohol Policy and denying the community the protection it offered for eight years.

"The irony is that there is a bill at select committee stage that will stop this nonsense if is adopted by Parliament.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Bill seeks to remove the appeal provisions for Local Alcohol Policies, and is currently before the Justice Select Committee.

Williams says only 35% of the country is covered by a Local Alcohol Policy, as many of the larger cities abandoned theirs under the threat of this continued legal action. She hopes this decision will clear the path for them to pick their Local Alcohol Policies back up and support their communities to reduce alcohol-related harm.