Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill

15 December 2022

On the 7th of December 2022, Justice Minister, Hon Kiritapu Allan introduced the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill to Parliament. The Bill passed its first reading on the 13th of December and will now move to the Select Committee phase.

The Bill aims to improve communities’ ability to influence alcohol regulation in their area and, thereby, ensure that –

  • The sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol is undertaken safely and responsibly; and
  • The harm caused by excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol is minimised.

The bill aims to do this by making targeted changes to the alcohol licensing process provided for in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. Simplistically, the bill will remove the ability to appeal Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) and will allow any person to object to an application for a licence or renewal of a licence, while also making licensing hearings more accessible and less adversarial.

Local Alcohol Policies

Clubs New Zealand agrees that the process as it currently stands is not ideal and the need for a review is warranted, however, we ask whether it is justified to remove the appeal process in its entirety and whether opportunities to foster community collaboration and real positive change are being missed.

Our major concern is that this bill has been put forward as a silver bullet or a quick win under urgency that will fail to deliver better outcomes for New Zealanders.

Local communities should have a say in how alcohol is sold and supplied, clubs and our small hospitality operators are a real part of the communities that they operate within, and they deserve to have an equal voice. The right to appeal LAPs provides an important check and balance that assists in securing a broadly consistent approach across the country.

Much of the argument for abolishing appeals rests on the time and cost associated with putting an LAP in place. It is our opinion that much of these concerns could be addressed by limiting the right of appeal, rather than denying it altogether.

Licensing Hearings

Clubs New Zealand are supportive of measures to make these more accessible and conducted without unnecessary formality. Having participated in licensing hearings, Clubs New Zealand is aware of the adversarial and legalistic nature that these hearings can take. We have sadly seen the threat of being taken before a DLC hearing used as a means to coerce a licence holder into accepting certain licence conditions.

We are concerned that the bill removes the opportunity for healthy debate and equal contribution by prohibiting those who appear at hearings to question any party or witness, along with prohibiting cross examination.

Most concerningly is the power given to DLCs and ARLA to “manage the volume of objections and appearances and licensing hearings.” This suggests to us that these bodies would be able to cherry pick the objections and appearances that fit a predetermined outcome or agenda.

At face value it seems that the answer to a perceived lack of community contribution or engagement is to restrict the voice or opportunities of the “opposing side”. This is neither democratic or reflective of the communities wants and needs.

Clubs New Zealand and its members are fully supportive of cost-effective, evidence-based measures being put in place to reduce harm from the sale and supply of alcohol. It must be remembered, however, that clubs and small business owners are contributing members of their communities and that the current environment is already extremely highly regulated and controlled. Care must be taken not to introduce a raft of ineffective/unproven measures, as a knee-jerk reaction.

Clubs New Zealand is focused on alcohol harm reduction and supporting our members to continue the positive work they do withinin their communities. Therefore, we look forward to submitting on this Bill on behalf of our membership.

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