Bar owners are bracing for higher fees, and the Dunedin
City Council for a hefty increase in its workload, as a result
of the Government's alcohol reforms.
The Alcohol Reform Bill, passed in Parliament on Tuesday
night, included a requirement for councils to form new
district licensing committees, which will handle all
applications for liquor licences, renewals and manager's
certificates. Councils would also have to form new alcohol
policies - with public consultation - setting criteria used
to control licences, possibly including new restrictions on
opening hours and bottle store locations.
Dunedin City Council liquor licensing and projects officer
Kevin Mechen said yesterday the cost of the extra
requirements would be passed on to the industry through a
''substantial'' increase in fees.
The fees would be set by the Ministry of Justice and details
were expected to be revealed by the middle of next year, he
However, the council would still experience a significant
increase in workload as a result of the changes, he said.
Under the reforms, the District Licensing Agency would be
replaced with district licensing committees, chaired by an
elected member of the council and with two community
Mr Mechen said the council had, in the last financial year,
received 1373 applications from within Dunedin for various
However, most were able to be dealt with directly by Mr
Mechen, under his delegated authority, meaning they did not
need to be referred to the DLA for a hearing.
Those that were contested or contentious were also referred
directly to Wellington for consideration, he said.
Under the new system, all applications would have to be
referred to the council's new committee, resulting in an
increased workload, he said.
The changes were expected to be in place by this time next
year, he said.
''In 12 months' time, there will be quite a bit of work for
council, and because it will mean going past the committee
for all those applications ... there will be more work
The appointment of the new committee might also be
complicated by the timing of the changes, he predicted.
That was because the next local body election was due in
October next year, just before the changes had to be in
place, he said.
That meant councillors trained to perform new duties
associated with the committee's work - of which there was
likely to be two, in case of absences - ran the risk of being
voted out of office just before starting work on the
committee, he said.
The changes were also being introduced just before Christmas
next year, ''when everyone wants their licences in place'',
''The next 12 months is going to be interesting.''
However, the council was not alone in worrying about the
In September, Hospitality Association of New Zealand (HANZ)
Otago branch president Mark Scully told the Otago Daily Times
the expected fee increases and other changes could be the
final nail in the coffin for some ''battling'' Dunedin bar
Justice Minister Judith Collins said this week the reforms
struck a ''sensible balance'', reducing harm without
penalising those who drank responsibly.
Opposition MPs criticised the changes as a missed opportunity
that did not address issues of price, availability or
promotion of alcohol.
Mr Mechen said a report providing more detail on the
implications of the changes in Dunedin was being prepared and
would be presented to councillors in February. - Additional
reporting The New Zealand Herald.