Council's hands tied over Matamata liquor-store proposal

Matamata could soon have a fifth liquor store but Mayor Jan Barnes says it will likely be the last to open its doors in the Matamata-Piako district.

Auckland-based company Sapphire Dreams applied in June last year to open an off-licence at 6 Arawa St.

Eight objections were made to the District Licensing Committee and the application was referred to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.

The case for the proposed store is to be heard by the authority at the High Court in Hamilton on February 18.

The application was made under the former Sale of Liquor Act, meaning the decision sits squarely with the authority.

But, from this year, new legislation means the Matamata-Piako District Council will have more power to issue or deny off-licences.

"We can't do anything about this particular application," Mrs Barnes said. "It will go through the process and the judge will have all of the information to make a decision.

"If this one does go through, it will probably be the last [new liquor store] in our district."

The council's draft Local Alcohol Policy says the number of off-licences issued would be restricted to the current level. Matamata has four liquor stores and two licensed supermarkets.

Matamata's Kevin Buckley was strongly opposed to the opening of another liquor store and hoped the authority would deny the application.

"Why do we need seven outlets for 12,000 people?" he said.

"It's just too many.

"The owner doesn't live in Matamata. It's not going to be his car that's done over, his house that's robbed.

"He's not going to be dealing with the after-effects of the alcohol."

Mr Buckley wanted to encourage the community to speak out against these types of applications.

"No-one seems to be doing anything about it," he said.

He was concerned the added competition would mean a "price war" between outlets and further price cuts on "already cheap" liquor.

It was also an issue that many Matamata College students walked down Arawa St after school each day, he said.

An application has never been turned down in Matamata-Piako under the former act, but Sapphire Dreams did have a proposal for an off-licence in Waihi, in neighbouring Hauraki district, overturned.

The company's application to open a liquor store in Te Aroha last year was met with strong opposition but was ultimately successful.

The council expects to notify its provisional Local Alcohol Policy by early next month.

Waikato Times