Auckland set to adopt policy that sees bottle shops close two hours earlier
Bottle shops in Auckland will be forced to close two hours earlier under the city's latest alcohol policy.
Auckland Council has publicly notified its newly-amended Local Alcohol Policy which will see off-licences close at 9pm.
The current off-licence trading hours are 7am-11pm.
Under the latest policy, bottle shops will still be able to open at 7am. The council's original proposal reduced trading hours to 9am-9pm, but that changed after appeals were lodged with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority.
The amended 7am-9pm hours are still being hailed as a victory by Alcohol Healthwatch.
The organisation's executive director, Dr Nicki Jackson, said the new policy was a "massive win" against the supermarket industry, which was the "dominant appellant" against the changes.
Jackson said Aucklanders consumed more alcohol than the rest of the country and had higher rates of alcohol-related assaults and hospital admissions.
She was pleased the evening trading hours of liquor stores could be cut back by two hours.
"Research internationally shows that when you cut those hours back at night-time, alcohol-related hospital admissions go down," she said.
"New Zealand research also shows that if you buy alcohol after 10pm, you're twice as likely to be a heavy drinker."
However, Jackson was disappointed that off-licences would still be able to open their doors at 7am.
"We would prefer later opening hours," she said.
"There's about 45,000 Aucklanders right now that experience alcohol abuse or alcohol dependence, and we want to do everything we can to protect those people from being exposed to alcohol in those early hours.
"Our social service providers tell us the morning is very difficult for people with addiction."
Retail NZ public affairs general manager Greg Harford said the policy would prove an annoyance for customers and retailers alike.
"The big issue is customer convenience," he said.
"Most people want to be able to pick up a few beers or a bottle of wine when they're doing their weekly grocery shop, and Auckland is one of those cities where everyone has different schedules."
He said while there had been "a lot of discussion" about reducing off-licence trading hours, he had yet to see any proof it would help to curb problem drinking.
"We haven't seen any documented evidence that says reducing off-licence hours in Auckland is going to reduce alcohol-related harm."
Glengarry Wines general manager Liz Wheadon said the policy wouldn't "overly affect" her company, as long as it applied even-handedly to all off-licences.
Wheadon was concerned concessions would be made for supermarkets, which might be placed in a different category from bottle shops.
"Should there be different opening hours for different types of off-licences, then we would have a very big problem with that," she said.
"We're a family-owned business and the responsible sale of alcohol is very important to us, but so is having a level playing field in business.
"If we all have to close at 9pm, let's all close at 9pm."
The proposed trading hours are not yet in force – a 30-day period for appeals with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority began on Wednesday.