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Liquor Licences: Authorities ignore social harm

Authorities ignore social harm when granting liquor licences

"I was woken at 3.50am with a man yelling that he'd been attacked with a meat cleaver. His friend has gone mad and he needed somewhere safe to stay. The man's face was bloody and swollen, and he smelled of tobacco and alcohol. He was soaked through to the skin by the rain" said Colin Bridle, Salvation Army Community Ministries Manager, as he picked up the pieces from yet another alcohol-fuelled incident in Tokoroa.

This incident is yet another example of the way in which the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 has failed communities by allowing the proliferation of liquor outlets in communities. Poverty Action Waikato researcher Dr Rose Black said that she has heard many stories related to the availability of alcohol throughout the region. One person we spoke to in Coromandel pointed out that "there are 5 liquor outlets (3 hotels, Price Cutter grocery Store, and Gold Diggers) and only 1400 people in Coromandel town".

A 2010 study carried out in Manukau City showed that a higher density of liquor outlets is associated with higher numbers of total police events, antisocial behaviour, dishonesty offences, drug and alcohol offences, family violence, property abuse, property damage, sexual offences, violent crime, traffic offences and motor vehicle accidents. "This is evidence of the enormous amount of social harm readily available sources of alcohol have in our communities" said Dr Black.

The Authorities which grant liquor licences have largely ignored the notion of "social harm" even although the Act states that: "The object of this Act is to establish a reasonable system of control over the sale and supply of liquor to the public with the aim to the reduction of liquor abuse, so far as that can be achieved by legislative moves."

In a recent High Court case heard in New Plymouth it was revealed that the Authority in question when granting liquor licences, had taken the stance that "alcohol related harm cannot be taken into account" (Case CIV 2011-443-050 Wells Instrument & Electrical versus Shree Sai Holdings Ltd). Section 41 of the judgement in that case stated that "In adopting that stance the Authority plainly erred in law."

By ignoring this object when they grant liquor licences, Authorities have not taken seriously the reduction of social harm through liquor abuse. They have not considered the many lost lives, maimed people, damaged families, tens or hundreds of millions of dollars spent in health, crime and social costs in their very narrow interpretation of the law.

Meanwhile, in Tokoroa another application has been made for an off-license adding to the current 59 liquor licenses in South Waikato District. Mr Bridle notes that the applicant, Mr Hartjinder Singh, has selected a location away from schools, preschools; churches or residential properties, and it is understood he has met all requirements of the current Sale of Liquor Act.

However, the High Court decision means we have grounds to object to this off-licence being granted. "Another liquor outlet will not reduce liquor abuse. The community is an affected party. A large proportion of the families seeking emergency aid from The Salvation Army in Tokoroa are suffering from the effects of alcohol."

"Will the politicians and wider liquor industry be available at 3.50 am in Tokoroa and other communities to help clean up the carnage, or will you be safe and warm in bed?" asks Mr Bridle.


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