Lawyers fly in for test case

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 12:00 22/07/2014

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A hearing into alcohol sales at one of Palmerston North's smallest supermarkets will have big implications for retailers nationwide.

The Palmerston North District Licensing Committee held a hearing yesterday on the renewal of the off-licence for New World Aokautere.

The renewal has been opposed by both police and MidCentral District Health Board under new alcohol sale laws, which came into force in December last year.

Foodstuffs' lawyer Mike Brooker, one of two lawyers the company flew into the city for the case, said Aokautere was a "test case".

Brooker said Foodstuffs was looking to the committee to provide an interpretation of the new laws as he did not plan on flying to hearings for every store Foodstuffs owned.

"We believe the legislation is clear but accept that we're here to test it and debate it."

Brooker said he believed the alcohol sale area at New World Aokautere complied with the law, while the two objectors to the licence renewal did not.

In his submission, Palmerston North police alcohol harm prevention officer Sergeant Jeffrey Veale said police had no issue with how the store was run.

What it opposed was how visible the alcohol section of the supermarket was to shoppers and where it was located in the store.

"The beer chiller sits adjacent to the cold meat deli chiller, and while it can be argued that such products are not normally linked to the consumption of alcohol, the close proximity of the two products will have the effect of normalising alcohol in the minds of young customers," he wrote.

Veale's submission says the alcohol area, including promotions and prices, is "clearly visible" from much of the store. He also said beer was visible from the checkout.

Brooker said some changes could be made to make the alcohol less visible though he did not believe the law required alcohol to be hidden away. Supporting Brooker was lawyer Iain Thain, who told the committee the law said alcohol had to be confined to one area.

This area could not be in the entranceway or at the checkout.

It also could not be in a place where people had to go through the alcohol area to get to the "main body of the store".

Thain said this meant people could move past the alcohol area or within site of it without the store breaching the law.

The store only breached it if it forced people to move through the area. It was up to the committee to define the area, Thain said.

Thain said wherever the alcohol section was in the store there would have to be a product next to it and there was no restriction in the law as to what this could be.

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The committee of Murray Torwick, Tony Brown and Graeme Newbery reserved its decision.

- Manawatu Standard

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