Local say lost in booze move
REGIONAL CONSISTENCY GETS PRIORITY
COMMUNITIES hoping to have a greater say when booze merchants plan to open alcohol outlets in their neighbourhoods may be disappointed with the Auckland Council’s plans.
The council has voted to establish a region-wide pool of people to form the new District Licensing Committees, which will decide if liquor licences can be granted.
Thirty committee members will be available to hear, in threes, applications that draw opposition from affected communities.
The new system is a result of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 and must be operative by December this year.
But the chosen option did not have an easy ride, with half the councillors preferring an alternative that offered more opportunity for local knowledge to be utilised. Under that option nine area-based committees would have been set up to provide for a degree of locally based decisions.
This was also the preferred option of half of Auckland’s 21 local boards, including AlbertEden, Maungakiekie-Tamaki, Puketapapa and Waitemata.
At the council’s August 22 meeting members were split down the middle with mayor Len Brown using his casting vote to settle on one option.
Albert-Eden Local Board member Pauline Anderson led the board’s consultation with the council.
‘‘We went for the nine district licensing committees which is what everyone thought would give a fair say to communities,’’ she says.
‘‘The whole point of this new Auckland reform was to give communities more say and I don’t see how they are giving it to us.
‘‘Everyone thought local boards would have a say and the com- munity thought the local boards would be making decisions on how, when, where and who a liquor licence is granted to.’’
To involve communities hearings will be held in the area relating to a licensing application and a local committee member will be sought where practical.
Albert-Eden councillor Chris Fletcher voted in favour of nine committees and says those conditions are a ‘‘cop-out’’.
‘‘This is a real betrayal of our communities and their aspirations to have alcohol issues dealt with in a far more measured fashion.
‘‘This was an opportunity that the government has finally given us and we’ve wasted that opportunity.’’
The region-wide pool was recommended by council staff because it requires fewer members – 30 rather than 45 – and should allow greater regional consistency.