All the talk at the moment is about taxing inflation, aka capital gains, fertiliser and everything else, mainly rural, that moves. In the meantime the Government, at national and local level, continues to clip the ticket at every possible opportunity.

A great example of that is the fee to buy the special licence needed by those who intend to sell alcohol at festivals and the like, in these parts mainly to vineyards. These are the people who set up stalls, offering passersby the chance to sample their wares and perhaps buy a bottle or two.

'Surely we have enough dopey rules to plague us without civil servants dreaming up ways of making them even more onerous, and expensive.'

The licence is needed to extend the hours or the area of a premises that is already licensed, or to enable those who do not have a licence to take part in said event.

Kaitaia vintner Eric Shackleton raised the issue last week, saying the $207 fee he was being charged would put his participation at such events in jeopardy, and would be an even greater impost on others who planned to travel a considerable distance.


The Far North District Council deflected any criticism that might have been heading in its direction, saying the fees were prescribed by the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, imposed by the government and which it had no option but to enforce.

So far so good, perhaps, but the ticket clipping raises its head with the varying cost for the three classes of special licence, depending upon the size of the crowd expected.

A licence to set up a wine stall at a large event, one that the territorial authority "believes on reasonable grounds" will attract more than 400 people, costs $575. That falls to $207 for a 'medium' event, expected to attract between 100 and 400 people, and to $63.25 for a small one, involving fewer than 100 people.

The important figure is the number of people expected, not the number of people likely to purchase alcohol. A crowd of 400 preschoolers with half a dozen parents, therefore, would attract the maximum fee.

Councils have the discretion to charge the fee one step down from the appropriate event class, but not two steps down, which, it seems, it has been doing. Tsk tsk. Free money has gone begging.

The first question is, how much does it cost to issue a licence? Followed by, why does it cost more to issue a licence for a bigger event than for a smaller one?

If it costs $63.25 to issue a licence for an event where the crowd isn't going to crack three figures, we are entitled to assume that the council is making a profit. If it charges $575 for a bigger event, while the issuing process presumably doesn't change, the profit margin presumably expands accordingly.

These licences might be required by Wellington, but someone needs to explain why a licence to operate at Mangonui's Last of the Summer Wine Festival, for example, costs nine times the fee for a barbecue at the Fairburn Hall.


The difference, surely, is based on the expectation that a participant who expects a big crowd, and therefore a better financial return, will have the incentive to pay more. It likely has nothing to do with costs, but charging what the market will pay.

It simply cannot be that the fee is imposed purely to cover costs. Effectively it is a tax. So why not be honest and call it a tax? Just add it on to all the other taxes the vintner paid to make the wine, and the GST the customer will pay when it changes hands.

To be fair on councils, a lot of the rubbish they dump on the people they 'serve' is at Wellington's behest, although one does not risk damaging one's hearing by exposing oneself to the cacophony of protest from councils directed at Wellington for imposing stupid, often expensive rules. It behoves local authorities to keep their communities' interests in mind when they obey the Beehive, and one could be forgiven for suspecting that they don't.

It would probably be difficult to under-estimate the intelligence of the people who come up with these rules, but the alacrity with which others ensure compliance can be quite breathtaking. Take two examples, neither of them from the Far North.

One victim was a land owner who erected a 'shed', for want of a better word, comprising two rows of poles that supported the roof. There were no walls. Just poles and a roof.

Yet he was told that he had to place 'Exit' signs on each corner, so anyone who was under the roof when it burst into flames, perhaps, would know how to get out.

The second was a farmer who spotted a loose sheet of corrugated iron on a barn roof.

He had planned to shimmy up a ladder and fix it, but was soon disabused by his local council. He had to hire and install scaffolding to ensure his safety, which he did, albeit not with good grace.

Once the site was as safe as the council could possibly make it, at no little expense to the farmer, he leaned a ladder against the barn, climbed up, hammered two nails into the offending sheet of corrugated iron and climbed down again, without at any stage clambering on to the roof.

Quite extraordinarily, he did all that without injuring of killing himself. He should sell his story to Reader's Digest.

The Far North District Council isn't entirely averse to enforcing regulations with unseemly enthusiasm. It told the writer last time he was subject to swimming pool inspection that nothing that was not pool-related was to be kept inside the pool fence.

That included pot plants and a dog kennel, even when it was explained that the latter was occupied by a dog specially trained to undertake water rescues.

The council was invited to explain when the rule demanding that children must not be able to climb into a pool enclosure had been amended to also prevent them from climbing out.

Surely we have enough dopey rules to plague us without civil servants dreaming up ways of making them even more onerous, and expensive. And when we are told that we have to pay a fee for whatever piece of paper it is that we need, we should ask how the cost has been calculated.

If it doesn't make sense, tell your MP. Only he or she can fix that sort of thing, although it would not be wise to hold your breath.

Different strokes

Jihadist Mark Taylor, who is possibly in the running for the title of Least Talented Terrorist 2018, will return to New Zealand, sooner or later, galling as that might be to many people.

This former soldier, who we are now told suffered a brain injury when he was 2, and is a little 'slow', who devoted four years of his life to Isis, is a New Zealand citizen by birth and apparently cannot be deprived of that status. Pity.

So he will come back, and a lucky lawyer will make a lot of money defending him against charges that are likely to be brought against him, and one day he will be a free man in the land of his fathers.

Whether or not he resumes his terrorist ways once he's home again remains to be seen, but he has already revealed that his attitude towards women is perhaps a little out of date.

He candidly told an interviewer that his one regret as an unemployed terrorist was that he had been unable to afford a female slave.

An 'old' one, 50-plus, would have set him back US$4000, a 'good' one, presumably younger, up to US$20,000.

Still, a bit of cultural diversity never hurt anyone did it?