Concerns have been raised that councils who put a lot of work into developing plans to address harmful drinking in their local patches could see their decisions overturned.

Recently the Dunedin City Council had parts of its Local Alcohol Policy (LAP), including a proposal to cut off-licence hours from 7am-11pm to 9am-9pm appealed by Progressive Enterprises, Foodstuffs, and six other parties.

The Alcohol Regulatory Licensing Authority (ARLA) ruled that parts of the policy were unreasonable and there was no evidence they reduced alcohol-related harm.

Dunedin mayor and Local Government New Zealand president David Cull said the council went to a lot of trouble to put the plan together and questioned the system that asked councils to put local plans together, the outcomes of which were ultimately decided in Wellington.


"We are not the only council in the country that has had this happen - the mechanisms that are set up are undermining the intent of having a local policy."

The Napier and Hastings councils' provisional LAP was appealed by three apellants in 2016, largely relating to opening hours for supermarkets and grocery stores.

An appeal hearing date had been set by ARLA for June 18 this year.

Mr Cull said one of the problems for smaller councils like Hastings and Napier was that they went to a lot of expense putting these plans together, and extensive consultation, and then potentially faced more expense if they wanted to fight appeals.

"For some it's not affordable."

He also noted there appeared to be inconsistencies in ARLA rulings for councils across the country.

"The presumption is almost that you have to go to extraordinary lengths to depart from the status quo, when the legislation says councils have to give regard to alcohol-related harm."

Hawke's Bay DHB medical officer of health Rachel Eyre said that compared to other DHBs, Hawke's Bay had the second highest rate of hazardous drinking in the country, behind the Tairawhiti DHB.


While one in five people was considered a hazardous drinker nationally, that figure was one in 3.5 people in Hawke's Bay.

"The trend has worsened over the years, reflected in increases in hospital admissions due to alcohol, which doubled in Hawke's Bay between 2009 and 2016, which is a concern."

She said one of the tools to reduce alcohol-related harm was local alcohol policies that limited availability of alcohol.

"Restricting availability, reducing marketing and price are key drivers in reducing harm, and we want them to be effective."

Any new liquor licensing application committee had to have regard to the LAP and the expectations within it, which was important.

"If we don't have this kind of policy, it's done licence by licence which is very labour intensive - this is really the only tool councils have to reduce alcohol harm at a community or population level."