A David and Goliath booze battle is brewing in the Far North with a Kaikohe pensioner taking on the might of New Zealand's biggest supermarket chains.
The scrap centres on a council attempt to reduce alcohol harm by cutting off-licence hours and setting rules about the location of liquor stores.
Initially the council wanted maximum off-licence hours cut from the current 7am-11pm to 9am-10pm, plus a ban on new liquor outlets within 100m of schools, childcare facilities and churches.
Five appeals were lodged against the proposed new liquor rules - by Progressive Enterprises (which owns Countdown), Foodstuffs (New World and Pak'nSave), The Mill (a liquor store chain), Hospitality NZ, and Kaikohe pensioner Shaun Reilly.
In mediation earlier this year four of the appellants and the council itself agreed the proposal was "unreasonable" - in particular the part which sought to cut off-licence hours - and decided to send it back to the council for reconsideration.
Only Mr Reilly, an 83-year-old retired farmer, disagreed. In his view the proposal wasn't unreasonable. Instead, he believed it was "too reasonable" towards the liquor industry, and didn't do enough to combat the harm caused by alcohol.
He wants alcohol sold at off-licences, including supermarkets, no earlier than 10am and no later than 7pm, and not at all on a Sunday.
His opposition means the matter will now have to go to an Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority appeal hearing at the Turner Centre in Kerikeri on December 13-15, when he will put his case.
Meanwhile, Progressive has applied to have his appeal thrown out on the grounds that it is "vexatious, frivolous and an abuse of process".
Progressive is also seeking costs from Mr Reilly, who has until November 17 to respond.
Mr Reilly said the problems caused by alcohol were well known but no one was doing anything about it.
Alcohol was a factor in a high proportion of crime, serious crashes and family violence in Northland. It had, however, also become a multimillion-dollar earner for supermarkets.
He was not worried about the possibility of having to pay costs if he lost.
"It'll be like getting blood out of a stone. Besides, somebody has got to stand up and do something. If I have to be that somebody, so be it," he said.
Mr Reilly is assisted by volunteer Jane Johnston, a former council employee, and has the backing of a number of Kaikohe residents, 300 of whom signed his petition calling for tighter alcohol restrictions.
The saga began in 2012 when the Government passed the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act amid concerns about the proliferation of liquor outlets in parts of the country.
The new law gave councils the power to set restrictions by setting a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP).
The Far North District Council received 91 submissions and drafted a LAP that, among other things, restricted off-licence sales to 9am-10pm instead of the default times of 7am-11pm. The LAP also proposed banning new liquor outlets within 100m of schools, childcare facilities and churches.
In Whangarei, where 254 submissions were received, the proposal was more restrictive still with off-licence sales limited to 9am-9pm and a moratorium on new bottle stores.
Appeals against the Whangarei proposal were lodged by Progressive, Foodstuffs and Super Liquor. An appeal hearing is expected next year.
Progressive did not return calls for comment.