Plan to cut liquor fees 'still not enough'

AL WILLIAMS
Last updated 05:00 28/02/2014

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A recommendation to reduce new event liquor licence fees does not go far enough, operators say.

The Timaru District Council resource and planning committee will meet on Tuesday to discuss options to amend the fee structure for large events after numerous inquiries about reducing the cost.

Most have come from small operators who will find it prohibitive to attend large events when they have to pay $575 each if more than 400 people are likely to be present. Before new legislation, one $65 special licence fee covered a whole event. Special liquor licence fees were increased in December under the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act.

Timaru District Council environmental health manager Jonathan Cowie has recommended reduction of fees from $575 to $207 at the discretion of the committee secretary.

Under special licence regulations, a territorial authority may, in its discretion and in response to particular circumstances, charge a fee for a special licence that is one class below the class of the licence that is issued. At present, it costs $207 for a class two event (100 to 400 attendees) and $55 for a small size event (fewer than 100 attendees).

Mr Cowie said in his recommendation that the health unit viewed the $575 fee as an oversight in the regulations. "None of the operators we have spoken to would serve 400 customers; many operators see their attendance at events as a marketing exercise."

Mr Cowie has previously told The Herald fees changes would deter wineries from attending events.

The council sought legal advice, which confirmed Parliament intended territorial authorities to have discretion to reduce the fee inappropriate circumstances.

Operators said the recommendation did not go far enough.

Winemaker Gary Dennison, of Point Bush, in Waimate, said it was still revenue collecting.

"It's supposed to be about risk management; revenue collecting is not risk management. "If you have eight vendors and you have 400 people, let's say 30 to 50 per cent are children and 10 per cent are non-drinkers, then it doesn't leave a lot."

Lake Tekapo Fete is to take place at Mt John Homestead on March 16, with organisers concerned wineries will pull out in future.

"I still think it is too expensive," fete organiser Raewyn Radford said. "At $207 per vendor that's over $600 for one small event; it cuts into profit with travel expenses and site fees."

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- The Timaru Herald

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