DHB Fears the Influence of Supermarkets on Alcohol Policies
Date: 4 October 2013
DHB Fears the Influence of
Supermarkets on Alcohol Policies
The Waikato District Health Board has serious concerns about the powerful influence supermarket chains will have on the preparation of local alcohol policies.
Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, local authorities have the opportunity to prepare local alcohol policies which can determine liquor licence issues such as licence hours and location of premises.
“It was the intention of parliament and the Act that local alcohol policies give councils the opportunity to reflect deep community concern about the problems alcohol is causing, to show leadership in addressing alcohol-related harm,” said Waikato DHB medical officer of health Dr Richard Wall.
Dr Wall said lobbyists for the supermarket chains are advocating for supermarkets to be able to sell alcohol for the default maximum hours possible under the Act and not be subject to the same restrictions as other liquor outlets.
“The supermarket lobbyists maintain that they should be treated as a special case but in reality we can’t address alcohol harm without including supermarkets. They sell more alcohol than anyone else,” he said,
“These lobbyists can be quite persuasive, especially when they start threatening expensive legal action. You can’t blame councils for being risk averse but this is one issue on which they need to take a stand.”
Dr Wall said there was no mention in the Act of putting commercial interests above the wellbeing of the community.
“It was never the intention of parliament that big businesses call the shots. The default hours under the Act are a safety net to prevent complete open slather if a local authority doesn’t have a policy – they are not intended as a guideline.
“The Law Commission recommended much greater controls after they weighed up all the issues and counted the cost.”
Waikato DHB health protection advisor Ross Lawrenson noted the system is well set up for industry groups to appeal against a local alcohol policy to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority without significant disadvantage or cost to the local authority.
“Such an appeal is unlikely to be successful given that the evidence for tighter controls is overwhelming and the appellant would have to satisfy the Authority that a particular element of the policy was unreasonable in the light of the object of the Act,” he said.
*NB Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act
• (1) The object of this Act is that —
• (a) the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly; and
• (b) the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised.
(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol includes—
• (a) any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness, or injury, directly or indirectly caused, or directly or indirectly contributed to, by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol; and
• (b) any harm to society generally or the community, directly or indirectly caused, or directly or indirectly contributed to, by any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness, or injury of a kind described in paragraph (a).