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Mayor’s plea: don’t buckle on booze

Mayor’s plea: don’t buckle on booze

March 12, 2014

Hauraki Mayor John Tregidga is asking other Mayors to hold their ground against big business trying to control access to alcohol in small communities.

On Friday, he will ask rural and provincial Mayors from around New Zealand to join his campaign to ensure the views of local people are taken into account when local alcohol policies are set.

Earlier this month, Mr Tregidga hit out at Progressive Enterprises, accusing the giant Australian-based retailer of trying to force his community to allow booze to be sold “from early in the morning until late at night”.

The small Hauraki council wants liquor sales to be restricted to between 7am – 9pm. Its policy was developed after the council consulted widely and has strong support from police, Waikato District Health Board, local family and anti-violence groups and residents.

But Progressive Enterprises, which owns Countdown supermarkets, wants to sell liquor in Hauraki from 7am – 11pm and has appealed the Council’s provisional policy. That’s despite its two Countdown stores in the Hauraki district both closing at 9pm.

Progressive Enterprises has also appealed the policies of other small councils and there are suggestions the supermarket giant wants a blanket approach to trading hours nationwide.

Mr Tregidga said he had received overwhelming support since going public last week with his concerns about Progressive’s legal response to what he believes is a community issue.

He said his Council was reluctant to spend ratepayers’ money on lawyers to fight the retailer “when we shouldn’t have to”.

"People are saying 'good on you' - that it's great to see someone standing up publicly for small communities and saying enough is enough," he said.

“The legislation was set up specifically to allow local people to have their say about alcohol in their community. That’s why it is a called a Local Alcohol Policy. If we’re forced to defend our policy, the ones who will pay are the ratepayers. That is utterly and completely unfair. It’s just wrong.”

On Friday, at a meeting facilitated by Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ), Mr Tregidga will ask Mayors around the country to hold their ground and ensure local views are taken into account.
“I’m urging them not to buckle under pressure. We’ve got to stand our ground on this.”
LGNZ President Lawrence Yule has already confirmed that small councils were facing pressure from "big commercial entities" and that LGNZ was watching the issue closely.
Mr Tregidga said while some people in his community had suggested a boycott of local Countdown stores but he did not support it.

“That’s not what this is about.”

He also said he would be "bitterly disappointed" if local Countdown staff were getting a hard time from locals who were angry about Progressive’s stance.

"This has got nothing to do with the local managers or local staff who are all good people. This is about people in head office trying to steamroll our community into allowing them to sell booze from early in the morning until late at night. The feedback I've had is that local store staff don't want that either."

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