24-hour licensing issue to return
The controversial issue of 24-hour licensing could be back on the agenda for local authorities if Parliament passes the Alcohol Reform Bill.
Under the legislation, which is expected to be passed through Parliament this year, councils will be able to introduce Local Alcohol Policies enabling them to set the rules for their communities.
Trading hours, liquor bans and the location and density of liquor licences will all be up for discussion, and those involved in preparing the Queenstown Lakes District Council for the changes are well aware the long-running debate of 24-hour licensing is likely to be reignited.
"If it is raised during the consultation process we will have to consider it," councillor Cath Gilmour said.
The reforms would give communities the opportunity to have a say on the sale and consumption of liquor but they would pose new challenges for councils.
Among the biggest concerns raised by attendees of a Local Government New Zealand conference workshop in Queenstown yesterday were the costs, legal ramifications and where they would find people qualified to be elected to proposed District Licensing Committees (DLC).
Under the legislation, councils must appoint a DLC to hear all applications. The committees will be chaired by a local councillor with two appointed members who must have relevant experience in licensing but who cannot be involved in the alcohol industry or employed by the local council.
Police, medical officers and inspectors will also be exempt from sitting on the committees, leaving councillors across the country questioning who they will appoint.
"That's going to be a challenge. Each council is going to have to specify the level of experience and expertise they want," said Lakes Environmental regulatory and corporate manager Lee Webster.
Ms Gilmour said it would be difficult to find and appoint people with the necessary skills in such a small community.
Councillors at the workshop put a collective request to the ministry to take a commonsense approach to the issue and explore the possibility of appointing JPs to committees.
Health Promotion Agency local government manager of alcohol Cathy Bruce reassured councils they would not be left to introduce new policies alone and said there would be support.
Councils were encouraged to start making plans for the introduction of the new bill and were told anyone who wished to appeal decisions regarding Local Alcohol Policies must make submissions on any draft policies if they wanted the opportunity to appeal in the future.
"It's really important people submit if they like it. If you don't submit you cannot appeal," said Ministry of Justice policy manager alcohol policy and crime reduction, Basia Arnold.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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