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Unlimited Liquor Stores in Northland Proposed

Press Release
Unlimited Liquor Stores in Northland Proposed
Draft Local Alcohol Policy Does Not Go Far Enough to Reduce Alcohol Harm

Kaikohe, Northland, New Zealand August 20, 2014

The draft Council policy allowing for an unlimited amount of bottle-stores to open in Kaikohe has little community support if any. Nor does the proposal for supermarkets to be granted off-licenses to sell alcohol from 7:00am-10:00pm, Monday – Sunday. If adopted, the policy would apply to the whole of the Far North District. The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, includes the object to minimise the harm caused by excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol but it passes this responsibility on to local communities through Local Government policy.

Of the 98 written submissions to the draft Local Alcohol Policy, many called for a cap on the amount of liquor outlets and a reduction of the hours of sale and accessibility. Senior Constable Graeme Wright says, “It is well documented that any reduction in the availability (of alcohol) means a reduction in harm.” The submission from the Police calls for a cap on the amount of liquor outlets and restricting supermarkets to the sale of alcohol between 9:00am and 10:00pm, the same as proposed for the bottle stores.

Community stalwart Shaun Reilly believes that even that is not going far enough and that off-licenses for supermarkets and grocery stores should not be renewed. He says, “Grocery and supermarket trading (in alcohol) is relatively new and it is not their raison d'être and therefore not essential to their stock and trade.” He said that removing alcohol from supermarkets “would be a limiting factor on the ease of access to the younger population and will result in fewer alcohol related offences.” Shaun ran a quick petition in Kaikohe calling on Council to draft a tighter policy on the sale of alcohol and easily gained 100 signatures with little effort, in one day. Although the hearing is now closed he is considering continuing the petition because of the strong community willingness to reduce alcohol harm and the possibility of the matter going to appeal if the Council don’t get it right.

Other submissions called for tighter controls in order to reduce the flow of alcohol into the community and objected to a bottle-store being located next to the children’s playgrounds and public toilets in Kaikohe’s Library Square. Others called for mental health and addiction facilities, medical facilities and social service providers to be added to the policy as places that liquor outlets should not be in their proximity. One submitter who owns a Liquor Land store expressed concern that if there is no cap, businesses from Auckland will look to expand into Northland to open liquor stores and offer cut rate prices to compete. A proliferation of low cost liquor outlets will increase alcohol related harm in the community.

In his oral submission, Mike Shaw from the Kaikohe Church Leaders’ Forum said, “Countdown deliberately places its alcohol products near the door. It is an Australian owned company and profits at the expense of the community. At least New World displays their alcohol in a more appropriate place and is locally owned. If anyone is going to profit from selling legal drugs, let it be a local. There should be at least one store where those who are being negatively affected by alcohol can shop for food.”

The Hearings Committee also heard that the Council, as a key partner, had not done any meaningful work with the Kaikohe Social Sector Trials and the Public Health Alcohol Harm Reduction Coordinator to develop a plan to reduce alcohol harm amongst young people in Kaikohe. Mike Shaw who sits on the Advisory Group of the Social Sector Trials said, “If the Council will not engage with us, it makes a mockery of the Kaikohe Youth Action Plan. I think the consultation process should be paused, get all the partners together before this policy goes any further, consult with the community more robustly and get a better policy outcome. The reality is that the people that this policy affects the most, in terms of harm, don’t even realise that they can have a say in how it should look.”

Dave Hookway is the Health Promotion Advisor for alcohol and other drugs with the Northland District Health Board. While the District Health Board put in a submission, Dave submitted a personal submission as well. He said, “Research evidence is quite clear that alcohol related harm can be reduced through limiting both the accessibility and the availability of alcohol.” He supports capping the amount of liquor outlets, reducing the amount of trading hours for off-licenses and advertising.

The hearings are now closed and deliberations will be held on Thursday 18 September. The community is yet to see whether the Council will have the courage to develop a Local Alcohol Policy that is supported by the community or in the financial interests of the supermarket chains. Mr Reilly says, “This is the first time in history when the people who are affected by alcohol, not just the ones making the money, get a say in what we want in our communities. We need to get it right!”

End.

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