Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Community voices raised against alcohol harm

Alcohol licensing hearings will become more accessible and less adversarial as the Government removes barriers preventing community voices from being heard, Justice Minister Kiri Allan said today.

A Bill making targeted changes to the licensing process in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 was introduced to the House today.

“Communities are battling with the effects of alcohol-related harm and the Act, which was introduced by National in 2012, has contributed to the silencing of community voices and favoured the interests of those in the alcohol industry,” Minister Allan said.

”This Bill implements the first phase of alcohol reforms and will give power back to the community. The changes will address three persistent issues identified by local communities:

  • Difficulties in adopting and applying local alcohol policies (LAPs)
  • The excessive limits placed on who can object to licence applications, and
  • The legalistic and adversarial nature of alcohol licensing hearings.

“We are removing the ability for people to be cross examined at District Licensing Committee hearings,” the Minister said.

“Members of the community have felt intimidated and disempowered at these hearings, as they can be cross-examined by experienced lawyers on behalf of well-resourced representatives of the alcohol industry. This can be a barrier to community participation.”

She said the Bill will also ensure hearings are not conducted with unnecessary formality, making them less intimidating and easily accessible, including being held at more suitable locations and times and remotely by phone or audio-visual link where appropriate.

“We’re also expanding who can object to a licence or a renewal application, making it easier for people to object as individuals, or on behalf of organisations with a special interest in reducing the harm caused by alcohol in their communities.”

“Together these changes will boost the influence that communities have in local alcohol decision-making. It is the first step in bringing power back to the people, where it belongs.

“Government is aiming for the Bill to pass into law by mid-2023. Early next year, I will consider the Government’s plan for the second phase of reform,” Ms Allan said.

Further information about the changes and statistics on the LAP process can be found here.

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