There doesn't seem much 'local' about large national companies sending in their big wigs to force the hand the people elected to represent Whanganui.

Whanganui District Council is one step closer to adopting a local alcohol policy – rules it feels appropriately fit the unique needs of the district – but only after ceding ground to alcohol retailers.

Local alcohol policies are available for councils to set under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act.

The idea is councils can create rules tailored to the needs and wants of their specific communities with harm reduction in mind.


This includes the ability to "restrict or extend maximum opening hours set in the new act".

And so last year the council decided 9.30pm, instead of the current 11pm, was an appropriate cut off time for the sale of alcohol from off-licences.

It both allowed the sale of alcohol but also could help reduce some harm, the argument went.

This was decided after input from the community, various health organisations and even liquor retailers.

So far, so fair.

But it was soon appealed by two giant retailers arguing it was unreasonable in light of the object of the act.

After a year of negotiation, councillors, most of them reluctantly, voted to accept 10pm as a compromise and to get the policy through.

It's still reduces time alcohol can be sold but not as much as councillors wanted.


Councillor Kate Joblin probably said it best; "I think this is an excellent example of lobbying by those that have a profit motive at the end of the day."

This is not an argument about whether it was good policy or not, it's about who gets to make supposedly local decisions.

And there was a feeling through this whole process that any local alcohol policy was not going to be properly decided locally at all, that businesses with money and lawyers might have a stronger voice than locals with concerns.

If councils are to be given more localised power it needs to be more than within narrow parameters allowed by national business or legislation.