Liquor industry opposes policy changes

AARON LEAMAN
Last updated 05:00 28/03/2014

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Hamilton City councillors will face a divided room when they listen to feedback on the council's draft local alcohol policy.

The council's strategy and policy committee will sit today to hear submissions on the draft policy with 36 submitters asking to speak.

The purpose of the policy is to establish how alcohol should be sold and supplied in Hamilton, including where and during what times.

The council received 95 submissions but opinion is divided on the merits of the draft policy. Community organisations have submitted mostly in favour while licensees and industry groups advocate fewer restrictions.

Committee chairwoman Angela O'Leary said the policy was intended to support the Government's aim of reducing harm caused by New Zealand's culture of excessive drinking.

"It does that through a couple of mechanisms around where liquor stores can and can't be located as well as looking to reduce the hours of off-licence liquor stores," Ms O'Leary said.

Major changes include a two-hour fast forward on the time supermarkets and liquor stores can start selling alcohol, and an earlier closing time for suburban bars and restaurants.

Under the proposed policy, trading hours for off-licences will be restricted to 9am to 10pm.

This makes the closing time an hour earlier than currently allowed.

The proposed changes to start times will affect the morning trading hours of supermarkets, which open at 7am or 8am.

Suburban bars and restaurants will face a closing time of 11pm from Sunday to Thursday, but will be allowed to stay open until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights.

Ms O'Leary said it was important the council's policy balanced the rights of people to buy alcohol and minimised alcohol-related harm.

"It's very important we get it right. Probably every New Zealander has had some negative experience with alcohol whether it's a friend getting intoxicated and having to pick them up or addiction in the family," she said.

"Alcohol isn't evil but it's about trying to break New Zealand's drinking culture."

Anglican Action submitted it did not want to see any relaxation of the current alcohol restrictions in the city, saying the impact of alcohol on people's lives was immense.

Waikato-Bay of Plenty Cancer Society said there was growing evidence of the relationship between alcohol and some cancers. Reducing alcohol trading hours was likely to reduce alcohol consumption and support societal change where people were more aware of alcohol health harms.

In contrast, the New Zealand Retailers Association said restrictions proposed in the draft policy represented a "knee jerk" reaction to a popular social issue.

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The proposed restrictions could interfere with free market processes and the profitability of individual businesses but were unlikely to have any significant impact on consumer purchasing behaviour, the association warned.

- Waikato Times

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