Festival fee hiked

DUBBY HENRY
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2014
Hill wine
Dubby Henry
LAST DROP: Drury Hills Wines owner David Young reckons new festival licensing fees are money down the drain.

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Huge increases in liquor licensing fees have forced a boutique winery to pull out of a South Auckland wine festival.

Auckland Council says stallholders selling alcohol at the Clevedon Jazz, Wine and Food festival must pay $575 for special event licences, up from just $64 last year.

That news is devastating for Drury Hills Wines which relies on festivals to promote its products.

The small winery's tipples are made from exotic fruits such as goji, lychee, coffee, mango and passionfruit, as well as homegrown apricots, pomegranate, berries and plums.

A sampling stall lets customers taste the unusual wines risk-free before buying bottles to take home.

Festivals aren't big money-earners, owner David Young says.

Last year Drury Hills took just $2000 from the festival, from which it had to pay staff and set-up costs.

The new $575 charge is too much so the winery has backed out of the festival.

Proceeds from the festival, which runs on February 16, go back to the community. This year's beneficiaries are Clevedon School and Totara Hospice South Auckland.

Mr Young reckons the new laws - part of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 - could force tiny businesses like his out of the market.

"It's not worth it. I reckon there are going to be a lot of sour people. It's just ridiculous," he says.

"It's going to kill the industry."

The new liquor licensing laws are intended to curb problem drinking and give communities more power over where and when alcohol can be sold.

But Drury Hills Wines is the wrong target for those laws, Mr Young says.

Its wines are 12 per cent alcohol, but they're all about flavour, not getting drunk, he says. "It's a boutique winery.

"We're the only one like this anywhere in New Zealand."

The law should target liquor stores selling cheap beer and RTDs, he says.

"The reason they've done these changes is because of all the drunkenness... there are liquor stores on every corner."

To make matters worse, Mr Young says he applied for the licence before the new laws came into effect on December 18 but his cheque mysteriously disappeared.

He watched his wife write out the cheque and fill out the form, then he put it in the envelope, sealed it and took it to Manukau. Yet the council says the cheque wasn't in the envelope.

A week later the council told him it would cost $575.

The council now says it has tried to get in touch with Drury Hills Wines to offer him a chance to pay the original price since its application was received before the law change.

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But on the bigger issue of high costs at festivals, Auckland Council's hands are tied.

Alcohol licensing manager Rob Abbott says the default fees for alcohol licensing are brought in by Parliament and are based on risk.

"Special licences now have three classes based on the size of the event and how many of these special events the licensee is holding," Mr Abbott says.

"For example, one small event with less than 100 people is $63.25 but a large event with more than 400 people - like the Clevedon festival - is now $575."

He says the rule changes are nationwide and it would be illegal for the council to make an exception.

- © Fairfax NZ News

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