ARPHS aims to improve the health and wellbeing for all people by minimising alcohol related harm in our region. We do this through a range of regulatory and health promotion activities including ensuring compliance with the law, involvement with alcohol-related policy and submissions, working to reduce the number of alcohol outlets, and collecting information on the impact of alcohol-related harm on our population.
Auckland’s experience of alcohol licensing
Alcohol availability has a big impact on people and communities. The more places you can buy alcohol, the more harm there is in communities. Local harm from alcohol includes assaults, crime, car crashes, through to vandalism, feeling unsafe, noise disturbances and broken bottles. Often the people affected are not the drinker themselves.
The intent of the current alcohol legislation is to give people a greater say about where alcohol can be sold in their neighbourhood. Although the legislation provides some benefits, the Auckland experience over the past five years has shown that the stated aim for communities to have more of a say has not been realised.
It can be difficult for communities to have their voice heard when objecting to alcohol licence applications. Objectors must write a letter to Council and if it goes to a District Licensing Committee hearing, they need to attend in person, give evidence and answer questions. This process can be challenging and time-consuming in practice, and is a barrier for people who want to have their say.
After all this, community objections are often still unsuccessful. The vast majority of applications for new licences, or to renew existing licences, are granted, even with objections from people in the community, Police, the Medical Officer of Health or Council Licensing Inspectors.
A summary of outcomes of Auckland District Licensing Committee hearings into alcohol applications is here.
The Newshub Series on Alcohol
The personal and social costs of alcohol harm are far reaching – affecting the drinker, their whānau and others in the community.
It is immediate – crime, violence, accidents and injury, traffic crashes, and suicides.
It is long-term – addiction, mental health problems, diseases like cancer, stroke and cirrhosis, and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.
ARPHS has a statutory role in ensuring that the harms from excessive alcohol consumption are minimised in Auckland.
The sale of alcohol in New Zealand is controlled by The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (SaSAA) 2012. Its aim is to ensure the safe and responsible sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol, and to reduce the harm caused by excessive or inappropriate alcohol use.
This law also aims to give local communities a greater say in how and where alcohol is sold. This means that communities can object to new licences, but the process is challenging in practice. Members of the public must provide written evidence and take time off work to present this and answer questions. This daunting and time-consuming process is often a barrier for people wanting to have their say.
Many Aucklanders believe it is too easy to buy alcohol and there are too many places selling it. ARPHS would like to see a limit on the number of outlets, as more outlets in a neighbourhood leads to greater harm.
Competition leads to alcohol promotion and lower prices, longer opening hours, higher sales and consumption, and therefore more harm from alcohol such as hospital admissions and late night assaults.
The SaSAA also empowers councils to develop stronger alcohol regulation through a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) in consultation with communities, as explained in the LAP section below.
A Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) is a set of decisions made by a local authority in consultation with its community about the sale and supply of alcohol in its geographical area.
A Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) can influence:
Once in place, a LAP will place greater controls on when, where and how alcohol is sold across the region.
LAPs can also set out conditions that can be applied to alcohol licences to improve industry standards and promote safe and responsible sale and supply of alcohol.
Auckland’s LAP has been appealed and is currently not in place
Auckland Council developed a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP) in 2014 in consultation with Police and health agencies, and this was adopted as a Provisional LAP (PLAP) in 2015.
While ARPHS supported the majority of provisions in the PLAP, the service worked in collaboration with NZ Police and Alcohol Healthwatch to appeal some elements in 2017. The focus of ARPHS’ appeal included strengthening the proposed closing time for bars and pubs (on licences) and including more suburbs in the Priority Overlay Areas which provide extra protections.
ARPHS provided evidence of the significant alcohol-related harm in Auckland, and that it could be reduced by limiting the availability of alcohol overall.
In July 2017, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (The Authority) issued its decision on appeals made against the PLAP.
The Authority upheld the majority of the PLAP but asked the Council to reconsider a small number of clauses. The Council made decisions to amend its policy, which was resubmitted to the Authority in October 2017.
Appeals against the resubmitted PLAP have now been lodged by Progressive Enterprises, Foodstuffs and a licensed premise, and a second legal process is also occurring - a judicial review of proceedings. These proceedings will be heard by the High Court during the week beginning 11 February 2019.