Alcohol policy appeal dropped

SARAH DUNN
Last updated 12:58 29/07/2014

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Supermarkets have dropped their appeal against Tasman's planned alcohol policy, leaving the Hospitality Association as the sole objector.

The supermarkets' move was announced at the start of an appeal yesterday against the Tasman District Council's provisional local alcohol policy that sets maximum trading hours, among other licensing rules.

Supermarkets have joined forces to appeal against local body alcohol policies around the country, largely because of proposed tighter trading hours.

Tasman's policy set a 10pm closing time for off-licences that was initially appealed by Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs South Island, and retailers The Mill Retail Holdings and Independent Liquor (NZ).

Speaking on behalf of the group, Foodstuffs representative Tim Donaldson declined to comment yesterday on the reasons for the withdrawal.

Tasman Mayor Richard Kempthorne said the news about the supermarkets and off-licence retailers was "very pleasing to hear". He said now that the case had gone to court, the council was keen to let the judicial process play out.

The Hospitality Association was left as the sole appellent at the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority hearing in the Nelson District Court yesterday. The association opposes Tasman's 2am closing time for on-licences, such as pubs and restaurants.

Under alcohol reforms in 2012, maximum trading hours of 8am to 4am apply across the country unless they are altered by a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP).

Tasman's 2am closure came into effect with its policy in December last year. The Liquor Licensing Authority's Judge John Hole said the crux of the matter to be decided in court was whether licensed premises in Tasman District could close at 3am or 2am.

The council's environmental health co-ordinator and chief licensing inspector, Graham Caradus, told the court the reduction of alcohol-based harm in the community was a "reasonable long-term expectation" if it was made less available by closing bars and nightclubs earlier.

"The issue is that alcohol-related harm does occur in Tasman and the council's Local Alcohol Policy seeks to minimise that harm."

Caradus said that before the LAP came into effect, only one of Tasman's total 114 on-licences had reported to the council that it regularly opened beyond 3am. Twenty-one of the 114 had been permitted to trade until 3am or later.

He said the majority of Tasman businesses reported that trading seldom occurred to the full extent permitted, giving a range of examples which showed businesses commonly closed before 11pm on weeknights and before 1am on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Caradus also cited a long-standing "gentleman's agreement" that had restricted on-licence sales in Motueka to 2am or earlier since the mid-1990s.

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"The very moderate conditions imposed by the Local Alcohol Policy will require few operators to change their practices."

Caradus said earlier closing was community-driven, referring to a council survey of more than 500 people which indicated 63 per cent of respondents wanted bars and pubs to close by 1am and 75 per cent wanted them shut by 2am.

Hospitality NZ Inc lawyer John Young produced evidence that showed some on-licence operators kept their premises open later than they had reported to the council. He also identified bias in the TDC's survey, pointing out that it leaned towards the 65-plus age group.

Young said the hospitality sector in Tasman had initiatives designed to manage the consumption of alcohol. He said most Tasman drinking was done at home, and said only a small percentage of drinkers were consuming alcohol in a way that could affect their health long-term.

Caradus said Hospitality NZ was different from the other appellants as it represented traders who would be directly affected by tighter opening hours, while supermarket objections were more hypothetical.

- The Nelson Mail

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