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Long awaited relief for communities in alcohol law changes

Sunday 11 June 2023, 6:07AM

By Alcohol Healthwatch

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With the release of their report on the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Bill Friday, the Justice Select Committee has heard the calls to level the playing field for decision-making on alcohol in local communities.

The Committee have recommended important changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

These will bring huge relief, and can’t come soon enough for communities across Aotearoa New Zealand says Alcohol Healthwatch Acting Director Rebecca Williams.

The appeal provisions for Local Alcohol Policies (LAP) have resulted in significant delays, or acted as a deterrent to Local Councils developing a LAP. The Committee has agreed to remove these provisions. Williams says this removes a significant barrier to implementing evidence-based policies to minimise alcohol-related harm, which have been supported by communities across Aotearoa New Zealand.

The Act is aimed at giving communities a greater say on local decision-making on alcohol licensing and now that will be better honoured. The recommended changes will also mean that District Licensing Committees can decline a licence renewal application if it is inconsistent with community wishes expressed within a LAP.

Other recommendations will make it easier for communities to participate in local decision-making on where, when and who can sell alcohol in their community. The Act will be broadened to allow anyone to make an objection to a licence application, and District Licensing processes will be more user-friendly. Removing capacity for cross-examination in licensing hearings will provide relief for community members participating in these processes.

The Committee heard many submissions concerned about the absence of Te Tiriti o Waitangi in the Act, and the need for tools for Māori to address the inequitable alcohol-related harm experienced by Māori.

Williams says that while the Committee has not made recommendations to address this, they have included consideration of tikanga in licensing hearings. They also thought it was important to involve Māori the development of a LAP.

Alcohol Healthwatch hopes that these law changes will be enacted promptly, addressing the imbalance between community needs and alcohol industry profits.