The Napier City Council is looking to lodge a remit with Local Government NZ (LGNZ) to tackle concerns local communities' views on the sale and supply of alcohol are being ignored.
At a meeting next Monday Napier councillors will consider whether to approve a proposed remit to amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 so Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) can more accurately reflect community views and preferences.
The 2012 act allowed local authorities to develop LAPs, which could cover anything from the number and location of licensed premises to trading hours and one-way door restrictions.
After extensive consultation, the Napier and Hastings councils put together a joint provisional LAP, which was notified in June 2016.
But this was appealed by the liquor industry and the case is now due to be heard by the Alcohol Regulatory Licensing Authority this June.
Napier councillor Maxine Boag, who spearheaded the proposed remit, said the frustrations felt by the Napier and Hastings councils were mirrored around the country, and the issue was particularly important for Hawke's Bay.
"We know Hawke's Bay has a high rate of hazardous drinkers and the change in the act was meant to be one way to that communities could have their say to reduce alcohol-related harm.
"But the law is flawed - it's enabled commercial interests to take control, it's put small councils surviving on ratepayers' money up against these giants of the industry while we are trying to improve the wellbeing of our communities."
The time and expense of fighting such appeals had led three councils to abort their LAP process in the past three months, said Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Nicki Jackson.
Alcohol Healthwatch released a summary of local councils' LAP development in December last year, which concluded community expectations for the greater control of alcohol availability had not been realised since the act was changed in 2012.
"If you look at Christchurch, it aborted its process at the end of last year after it cost them $1.3 million in ratepayers' dollars - they gave up.
"Since then Hamilton and the far North have also aborted their processes.
"Hamilton decided not to go through the appeals process after spending 1000 days to get from a draft policy to an adopted policy only to end up with something that's totally watered down.
"The objective of the legislation was to increase communities' say and that objective has not been met. At the same time that hazardous drinking is going up, especially among women."
In its report, Alcohol Healthwatch said of 33 provisional LAPs that had been drawn up, 32 were appealed.
Together, the New Zealand supermarket duopoly (Progressive Enterprises and Foodstuffs) and the bottle-store industry as a whole respectively registered as appellants in 94 per cent and 81 per cent of all appealed policies.
Dr Jackson said many councils around the country had not started an LAP because they knew they were not going to have a policy that echoed community concerns.
"They are more likely to echo what the industry wants - people have to realise that the two supermarket chains are incredibly powerful."
Ms Boag said the law had thrown up a lot of issues and loopholes that pitted communities against big commercial interests.
She suggested it should be more like the gambling policy where councils had options such as sinking-lid provisions to prevent more gambling outlets opening, which could not be appealed.
Hastings deputy mayor Tania Kerr, who was on the committee that developed the joint LAP, said the Hastings District Council was supportive of the remit, which if approved by the Napier council would be presented to a zone meeting this month.
Napier needed the support of four other councils to get the remit on the agenda of the LGNZ conference in July.
Ms Kerr said it was frustrating to have gone through a lengthy process to formulate an LAP in line with community expectations to have it potentially changed.
"I'm also chair of the Hastings district licensing committee where all decisions are having to be made without an LAP - we can't enforce what the community has told us they want."
Dr Jackson said Alcohol Healthwatch intended to mobilise communities this year to say "enough is enough, our voices have not been heard".