Chains move to block alcohol rules

By Alexandra Newlove

13 comments
Progressive Enterprises, which operates Countdown, is attempting to block two Northland councils from implementing new rules restricting supermarket liquor selling hours.
Progressive Enterprises, which operates Countdown, is attempting to block two Northland councils from implementing new rules restricting supermarket liquor selling hours.

Supermarket chains arguing against new liquor rules for Northland have been told to "respect the democratic process" by an alcohol harm-minimisation group.

Progressive Enterprises, which operates Countdown, and Foodstuffs, which owns New World and Pak 'n Save, lodged appeals with the Alcohol Regulatory Licensing Authority moving to block two Northland councils from implementing new rules restricting supermarket liquor selling hours. Ratepayers would now have to fork out to defend the appeals.

Far North District Council settled on opening hours of 9am to 10pm for off-licence liquor sales, while Whangarei District Council went for the slightly more restrictive 9am-9pm. The new hours formed part of councils' provisional Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs), developed over several years in consultation with the public. Currently, default selling hours were 7am to 11pm for off-licences.

Alcohol Action Tai Tokerau (AATT) spokeswoman Ngaire Rae said the chains should withdraw their appeals.

"They should have good corporate and social responsibility and accept the hours that the people of Whangarei, Far North and their representatives have chosen," Ms Rae said.

In Whangarei, there were two major supermarkets next to the largest high schools and Ms Rae said it was positive for young people to see alcohol as a drug that needed regulation. "There is also a need for people who have significant alcohol issues to be able to go supermarket shopping and not be confronted with sales of alcohol. The other point is that supermarkets are an off-licence and need to be treated as such."

Both supermarket chains lobbied councils through the 2015 public submission process, asking them to take a liberal approach to alcohol sales in supermarkets.

FNDC's LAP also received appeals from Independent Liquor Limited, Hospitality New Zealand and community member Shaun Riley.

Unlike WDC, FNDC would not provide copies of the appeal documents. Councils were for the first time developing LAPs under the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012 which gave them the power to make new rules around when and where liquor could be sold. Twenty-nine councils across New Zealand would be defending appeals on their policies.

A spokesman for Progressive Enterprises said his company did not have any comment to make at this stage. "We will work constructively with all parties, including the council, during [the appeal] process." the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority said hearings on the Northland councils' LAPs would be heard in late 2016.

- Northern Advocate

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