Councils to help festivals hit by fees

New liquor licence fees have winery operators fearing they will not be able to take part in events such as the forthcoming Lake Tekapo Fete.

However, South Canterbury's three district councils are set to come to the party with assistance.

Special liquor licence fees were increased in December under the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act.

Operators previously paid a $65 special licence fee but could now face up to $500 in costs, depending on the size of the event.

Lake Tekapo Fete is scheduled to take place at Mt John Homestead on March 16 and organisers are concerned wineries will pull out of future events.

"We can't get wineries to come to our events for that kind of money; the legislation is not affecting people's drinking; it's affecting the numbers coming through the gates," Lake Tekapo Fete organiser Raewyn Radford said.

"It will affect other events; small wineries won't be able to attend. The main concern for me is that wineries won't be able to afford it and will stop going to events throughout New Zealand; any event with wine and beer will be affected."

Winemaker Gary Dennison, of Point Bush Estate in Waimate, says the local alcohol policy doesn't have any local components.

"It's based on Justice Ministry guidelines; their pricing is just outrageous. The Ministry of Justice has assessed wine making and distribution as low risk; we pay less for our operating licences. Why are they charging us more for special licences? It's just nonsense; it's just revenue-gathering."

Timaru District Council environmental health manager Jonathan Cowie agreed fee changes would deter wineries from attending events.

He said the intent of the fee changes was to fully recover costs from the sectors that created costs.

"We have sought legal advice which confirms that Parliament intends territorial authorities to have discretion to reduce the fee if appropriate circumstances are present.

"Therefore we are working towards firming up this delegation with the Timaru, Mackenzie and Waimate district councils and look forward to helping out the Tekapo Fete and Point Bush Estate in the near future," Mr Cowie said.

The Timaru Herald