Objectors who failed to turn up in person to oppose granting a liquor licence for another bottle store in Tauranga have inadvertently played into the hands of the applicant.
Tauranga's District Licensing Committee has approved the establishment of the Avenue Liquor Centre in 11th Ave, next to Mad Butcher.
The application was opposed by police and 55 public objectors of which only the police and neighbouring resident Lauren James Coughey turned up at the hearing to speak to the committee.
Hearing commissioner Murray Clearwater said in his written decision that the committee applied little weight to the objections of the other 54 people who signed the pro forma objection letter but did not appear to speak to their objections.
HB Enterprises was represented at the hearing by JD Young who argued that the application should be granted because only one of the 55 objectors turned up, and that his client had made concessions to Mr Coughley.
He noted an earlier decision by the Liquor Licensing Authority which said that objections had little "probative value" if those making the allegations were unable or not prepared to appear at the hearing to swear to the truth of what they were saying.
"By not appearing, their opinions and concerns cannot be tested by cross-examination by the applicant or questioned by members of the authority," the authority said.
Mr Young also urged the committee to exercise caution if it intended to rely on the general view that licensing additional outlets would invariably result in more alcohol-related harm. He said the issue was very site specific and did not apply to his client.
The committee heard there were already two bottle stores within 600m of the 11th Ave site and two off-licence supermarkets in the general locality.
Tauranga police's alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Nigel McGlone referred to a number of studies which showed a direct correlation between the density of liquor outlets and calls relating to alcohol-related harm.
In the 12 months to last July there were 51 calls to police from the general area around 11th Ave on matters that normally had an alcohol component such as fighting and disorderly behaviour.
The area's community constable Senior Constable Ian Searle reported "infrequent" complaints from businesses in the area relating to finding vomit and faeces on their properties.
He believed the good order of the area would be "diminished" by the opening of an additional liquor outlet.
Mr Clearwater said the medical officer of health, after initially indicating an intention to oppose the application, failed to lodge a report within the statutory timeframe. A request for a waiver to allow a late report was refused.
He said the committee was persuaded the licence should be granted, saying they were impressed with the candour of HB Enterprises director Simranjit Singh who made a number of concessions to satisfy Mr Coughley's concerns.
Stock deliveries would be restricted to weekdays between 9am and 5pm and the refrigeration units turned off during the hours of darkness.
The closing time was brought back one hour to 9pm.
Mr Singh said RTDs (ready to drink) comprised 40 per cent of sales from their other two outlets in Te Puke and Merivale. Other spirits accounted for 20 to 30 per cent of sales, with beer and wine 30 to 40 per cent.