Liquor-licence fighter wins support

JANINE RANKIN
Last updated 12:00 29/04/2013

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Big Barrel's licence for a bottle store in Cloverlea is being challenged by a Palmerston North City councillor, backed by about $40,000 of ratepayers' money.

Takaro ward councillor Tangi Utikere, who objected to the application, is appealing to the High Court against the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority's decision to grant the licence.

He said the authority's decision was wrong in disregarding the significance of the proliferation of liquor licences in the vicinity, and in not giving enough weight to evidence that it would increase liquor abuse.

The city council could not appeal in its own right because it did not object to the original application.

But after a behind-closed-doors debate last week, in which Cr Utikere took no part, councillors agreed to support his appeal and pay the legal costs.

Cr Utikere said the authority's decision was not a good one, and the community did not want the outlet on the corner of Botanical Rd and Tremaine Ave, close to two other off-licences.

"My community is against the proliferation of liquor outlets because of the subsequential pain caused by the increased availability of liquor, and its damaging and dangerous effects on neighbourhoods, families, friends and individuals."

He said the community's voice had not been sufficiently acknowledged by the authority, and he was delighted the council had voted to support his appeal.

The authority had also failed to apply its own specialist experience and heed the evidence it already had about the link between greater liquor availability and the risk of alcohol harm, he said.

Neither the police nor the district licensing agency inspector opposed the Big Barrel application.

But council chief executive Paddy Clifford said there was no conflict with the council now taking an opposing view to its inspector, who made a professional recommendation independently from the council and staff.

"There are a lot of concerns in the community about liquor and its effects, and the councillors felt we had grounds to support the appeal."

He said the council did not make a mistake in not objecting in the first case, as it was aware others, including Cr Utikere, were representing the concerns of the public.

"We believe it is in the public interest to support him, and we are satisfied it was a good use of public money."

Mayor Jono Naylor said the appeal was in the best interests of Takaro residents and the wider community.

He said the cost of appealing made it unaffordable for most individuals and groups in the vicinity of the proposed Big Barrel to take the action.

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Cr Utikere said it could take until February next year before the High Court could schedule an appeal hearing.

Big Barrel would be unable to set up shop until the appeal was resolved.

As well as upholding or dismissing the appeal, the High Court had the option of ordering a re-hearing of the licence application.

- The Manawatu Standard

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