West Auckland now has half the areas of the country where licensing trusts have exclusive control of alcohol sales, after two more lost their monopolies at the weekend.

Only four licensing trusts retain such control, two of them being the Waitakere and Portage trusts.

But supermarkets with licences will now be able to sell alcohol in Ashburton and Geraldine after the South Island trusts lost their monopoly rights.


In Geraldine 2168 people voted for change and 1003 backed the trust.

In Ashburton, 6368 voted for change and 6085 voted for the status quo.

Preliminary results show the voter return was 77.88 per cent in Geraldine and 77.4 per cent in Ashburton. The turnout for both polls was higher than for last month's local body elections.

The remaining trusts are in Invercargill, New Zealand's first and most successful trust, and the Gore-based Mataura trust.

Ashburton trust chairman Tony Todd said it always knew the vote would be close and respected the wishes of voters.

The challenge now for the trust was to operate efficiently in a deregulated environment.

Mr Todd said it was clear from the closeness of the vote that the trust still had a lot of support. But the trust had to accept the decision and get on with its business.

The trust operates hotels and liquor stores in Ashburton, Mayfield, Hinds and Mount Somers.

Ashburton New World owner Murray Speden said the campaign had been hard but he was confident the trust would prosper under competition.

He hoped to apply for a licence to sell liquor before Christmas and was grateful for the people who spoke out for competition.

Geraldine Licensing Trust chairman John Roberts said he was disappointed with the result, but thanked those people who backed the trust.

Mr Roberts said the trust would monitor its operations closely and carry out strategic planning for the new environment in the New Year.

Mr Roberts said the campaign to keep its monopoly had cost it "tens of thousands of dollars". It was disappointing the campaign had in some instances become personal.

"In a way it [the result] is a relief," he said.

Geraldine Supervalue supermarket owner Garry Sheed, who drove the campaign to free up his town's liquor market, said he was "pretty rapt". The town could now get back to normal.

He said his focus had always been on the growth of Geraldine and freedom of choice.

- NZPA