Prime Minister Helen Clark's call for tighter controls on liquor outlets is gathering support.
The Alcohol Advisory Council (Alac) said today communities needed to have a say in the number and location of outlets in their areas.
"This is the strong message we have been getting from communities throughout the country," said Alac chief executive Gerard Vaughan.
"The Sale of Liquor Act is now almost 20 years old. In that time the environment has changed dramatically."
Mr Vaughan said Alac wanted any legislative changes to also address factors contributing to binge drinking, such as cheap liquor and outlet opening hours.
Alcohol Healthwatch said it supported Miss Clark's call but wanted a more urgent response.
"Communities have been calling for the mandate to influence licensing decisions since they lost that right in the 1989 changes to the Sale of Liquor Act," said director Rebecca Williams.
She also said changes should cover a wider range of issues, including advertising and pricing controls.
Miss Clark said yesterday officials had been asked to look at a range of measures, including capping the number of liquor licences and widening the grounds on which the public could object to a liquor licence being granted.
She also wanted the type of store selling alcohol looked at.
"In effect, what most of us would consider a dairy has been turned into a grog shop in a number of cases," she said.
"I don't think that's good for the community."
The concern over liquor outlets follows the fatal shooting of Navtej Singh, 30, during a robbery at his Manurewa liquor store on June 7.
Miss Clark said yesterday police had grave concerns about the role alcohol was playing in violent offending.
The number of outlets has soared since rules were relaxed in 1989 and new research has linked outlet density with binge drinking and alcohol-related harm.
She told reporters that when Parliament passed the Sale of Liquor Act in 1989 it had not envisaged alcohol would become as widely available as it had.
MPs had probably thought they were voting for liquor being sold in supermarkets, not corner dairies.
The number of licensed premises had gone from 6295 to 14,970 since the legislation was passed.
New Zealand research, soon to be published, would show outlet density was associated with binge drinking and alcohol-related harm to young people, Miss Clark said.
She also said that the number of liquor outlets seemed to be highest in some of the "most deprived communities in our country."
"Ideally what we need is the numbers (of outlets) coming down."
Asked whether this could be bad for liquor businesses, Miss Clark said there was a greater social issue at play.
"It's the issue of what's happening to some of our less advantaged communities with the problem of binge drinking and the easy availability of alcohol."
Miss Clark said that under the law, district licensing authorities could not take into account the number of other licensed premises in a particular area.
"That seems to me to be a problem."
There were also limited grounds on which objections to a licence could be made.
Manurewa MP George Hawkins had drafted a bill that proposed widening the criteria for objecting to a licence application, and a requirement on the applicant to prepare a social and economic assessment statement.
Government agencies were looking at a range of measures which could complement that – including allowing objections to liquor licences from any affected party or member of the public and broadening the grounds for an objection.
There could be an option where local alcohol strategies were developed "which would specify locations and/or limits on the numbers of licences".
As well, territorial authorities could be given the ability to reduce or cap the number of liquor licences, Miss Clark said.
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