New event licence fees deemed unfair

Events promoters are getting their heads around "potentially confusing and expensive" changes to liquor licensing rules.

A suite of rules came into effect yesterday under changes to the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act.

Among the changes were three new categories of "special event" licences, with costs ranging between $55 to $500. Under the old scheme, there was a $64 flat fee.

Special Events Aoraki manager Chris Thomas said the changes could be counter-productive.

"There doesn't appear to be the opportunity for ‘umbrella licences'. Smaller organisations who just want to fundraise might be forced to sell more liquor to cover their costs," Mr Thomas said.

"It's not the Timaru District Council's fault - the Government wrote the rules - but there seem to be inconsistencies."

The new rules classify a "large size" event as one "the territorial authority believes [on reasonable grounds] would have more than 400 attendees".

However, Mr Thomas was concerned the new laws seemed to define events by their size rather than their activity.

"A concert at the Theatre Royal and a big rock festival at Mt Smart Stadium [in Auckland] are very different, but they both seem to come under the same category," he said.

Timaru District Council's environmental and health services manager Jonathan Cowie said it would play a "wait and see" game.

"As a rule, yes, if you're part of a bigger event you will get charged as specified in the regulations," he said.

However, Mr Cowie said the council did not intend to profit from regulating the legislation, only recoup the full cost of the activity.

"Once we have operated under the new legislation for a year we will be able to ascertain where the cost lies and apportion fees accordingly," he said.

"If income exceeds the cost of operating, the council will reduce fees."

Mr Cowie said the Government introduced the new laws to help councils recover costs on licences. Processing liquor licences is estimated to cost local authorities more than $6 million annually, across the country.

He said the council usually received about 200 to 230 applications for special licences every year.

However, Mr Cowie said some organisers hosting events early next year had got their licence processed before yesterday's deadline.

It had already processed licences for South Canterbury Hospice's Wine and Food Festival, which takes place on February 2.



Don't expect your beer or wine to be shifted to a different spot in the supermarket tomorrow.

The Government's changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act stipulated supermarkets must create a "single alcohol area", but these could not "be located at the entrance nor in the transition area from the retail floor to the checkouts". The rules came into effect yesterday.

However, Countdown New Zealand spokeswoman Kate Porter said each of its stores would "roll out" the changes depending on when their liquor licence came up for renewal.

"The vast majority of Countdown stores have beer and wine located mainly in one area now. We are reconfiguring one store a week on average for the next three years," she said.

"There's no change to any beer or wine advertising inside the store until a store's liquor licence is renewed and the single area applies."

Calls to Timaru supermarkets indicated most would not need to renew their licence yet.

Foodstuffs South Island retail general manager Alan Malcolmson said "nothing would change" for three years in some instances.

The new maximum operating hours are 8am to 4am for on licences, and 7am to 11pm for off licences, but councils have the ability to reduce these.

Ms Porter said there was no plan to cover up its displays outside those hours - instead, each store would have its own approach to informing customers.


Default alcohol licensing fees are: Small size event (less than 100 attendees.): $55 Medium size event (100 to 400 attendees): $180 Large size event (More than 400 attendees): $500 Note:

Councils can set their own fees for special licences through a bylaw. For example, a council could choose to set special licence fees at a set rate of $100 regardless of event size. Timaru, Mackenzie and Waimate district councils have chosen not to at this stage.

Source: Justice Ministry 

The Timaru Herald