South Aucklanders are campaigning against new liquor stores
They're battling to stem the tidal wave of alcohol flowing through their community.
Almost a dozen South Auckland residents have dedicated themselves for the past two years to opposing applications for new off-licence liquor stores and the renewal of existing licences.
Among them are Jasmine Kovach, who works in education and lives in Otahuhu, and Reverend Emily Worman of Mangere East.
"The catalyst was the decision to grant a licence to Thirsty Liquor in Wickman Way [in Mangere] in 2014," Kovach says.
"It's opposite Southern Cross Campus [school].
"We weren't official objectors to that application but we opposed it as community members.
"It struck many of us as despicable that that could happen."
Worman says the group isn't "anti-alcohol" but rather is opposed to the product being "normalised".
"It's the same if you see violence in your community. It becomes normal behaviour."
Kovach reinforces that view.
"We aren't into prohibition but why do you need three liquor stores near each other?"
They devote 10-15 hours to each objection lodged against off-licence applications and then attend district licensing committee hearings to present their case.
She and the others feel what they have to say isn't taken as seriously by the committee as evidence presented by the applicant, Kovach says.
"It's not that we are silent. It's just that we are not heard."
Worman agrees that hearings seem stacked against objectors.
She attended one recently where the principal of a South Auckland school had to wait for four hours before being allowed to speak.
"There is a massive bias for the applicant," Worman says.
"We might say there are heaps of smashed bottles on the ground outside a [liquor] store and they ask 'have you got receipts for them? How can you prove they're from that store?'."
The group hasn't seen a single licence application declined in the two years they've been objecting but they aren't about to give up.
"If we did then they would just run roughshod over the area," Kovach says.
People who want to get involved in the campaign against new liquor stores opening in South Auckland can go to Facebook.com and search for 'Wickman Way Liquor - No Way'.
HOW TO HAVE A SAY
Auckland Council democracy services general manager Marguerite Delbet says applicants and objectors who appear at district licensing committee hearings can give evidence under oath and ask and answer questions.
"This process enables information provided in objections or the application to be tested, which gives it greater weight.
"We encourage objectors to attend hearings so they can fully participate and have the best opportunity to put their case forward."
The committee is an independent body that must follow the law and be fair to all parties, Delbet says.
If an objector feels the wrong decision has been reached, they can appeal to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority or apply for judicial review through the High Court.
Delbet says people shouldn't be afraid to object to a licence or appear at a hearing to support their objection.
The process can seem formal and there are rules the committee must follow, she says.
"However, hearings are a way for all the parties to have a say, and are helpful for the committee in forming its decision."
Objectors usually need to live or work within a 1 kilometre radius of the licensed premises.
For information on objection to a licence application, go to alcohol.org.nz.