Alcohol sales to stop at 9pm

TARYN UTIGER
Last updated 05:00 03/09/2014

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New Plymouth bottlestores and supermarkets will be forbidden to sell alcohol after 9pm under a tightening of liquor licensing laws.

Yesterday the local alcohol policy hearing committee, a joint venture between the New Plymouth District Council and the Stratford District Council, voted to sign off on shorter alcohol hours for all off-licences in New Plymouth.

At the moment bottlestores and supermarkets can sell alcohol from 7am until 11pm, but soon they will only be able to sell it between 10am and 9pm.

Companies now have 30 days to appeal.

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Antoinette Shallue from Foodstuffs NZ said the business was considering the decision and would then decide whether to appeal.

The company, which includes the brands Pak'nSave, New World, Four Square, ShopRite and LiquorLand, has appealed similar decisions by other councils.

A Countdown spokesperson said they would also be reviewing the decision.

However, Stratford's shoppers will have little change.

The New Plymouth representatives on the committee abstained from voting when it came to Stratford's opening hours, and Stratford mayor Neil Volkze and councillor Alan Jamieson voted that shoppers in their district would be able to buy alcohol at bottlestores and supermarkets from 7am until 10pm.

The decisions come after months of debate about how to reduce alcohol harm in Taranaki.

But while off-licences will have to shut up alcohol early, inner-city bars have been given the go-ahead to stay open until 3am.

The council had previously debated closing inner-city bars at 2am instead of 3am, but this did not pass the final hurdle yesterday, despite strong arguments from mayor Andrew Judd and councillor Grant Coward.

Coward, former head of New Plymouth's CIB, said he had seen first-hand the "carnage" in town caused by alcohol and urged the committee to close the bars an hour earlier.

"The only people benefiting from a later trade time are the business owners," he said. "We are only asking for an hour, we are not asking for a 6pm swill."

Judd said police and the District Health Board had pleaded with the committee to bring the closing times back an hour.

"They have told us they are struggling," he said. "We have heard what a difference an hour would make."

However, their pleas fell on deaf ears and New Plymouth deputy mayor Heather Dodunski, and district councillors Craig McFarlane and Gordon Brown voted to keep the closing time at 3am.

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They argued an hour would not make any difference.

Councillor Shaun Biesiek, who was not elected to the committee, was disappointed in the outcome.

"The committee went soft on us," he said.

As a long-time campaigner for reducing alcohol-related harm, Biesiek said bars should have been given an earlier closing time.

"Nothing this committee has done [today] will reduce that harm."

The date for the changes to take effect has yet to be announced.

- Taranaki Daily News

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