Minister cautions against Wests' reprieve

The company lost its off-licence after the Dunedin district licensing committee's earlier...
The company lost its off-licence after the Dunedin district licensing committee's earlier decision to renew Wests' off-licence was appealed by Public Health South and a Dunedin City Council liquor licensing inspector.
Justice Minister Amy Adams is to review the decision to strip South Dunedin soft drinks company Wests of its liquor licence.

However, Ms Adams has cautioned against expecting a reprieve for the 140-year-old business' alcohol licence.

Amy Adams
Amy Adams

She has also ruled out revisiting the debate over alcohol sales in supermarkets, despite criticisms of a double-standard in the wake of the Wests decision.

Ms Adams was speaking in an interview with the Otago Daily Times, as she confirmed her officials would take another look at the rules which worked against the South Dunedin business.

The company lost its off-licence after the Dunedin district licensing committee's earlier decision to renew Wests' off-licence was appealed by Public Health South and a Dunedin City Council liquor licensing inspector.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) decided last month to uphold the appeal and stripped Wests of its off-licence.

That was based on rules introduced with the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, including preventing alcohol retailers from holding an off-licence unless alcohol sales amounted to at least 85% of total trade.

Ms Adams said she did not have the power to intervene and overturn ARLA's ruling, but had asked officials to consider whether further changes to the law were needed.

''What I'm interested to find out from my officials is whether a situation like Wests is operating the way that was intended ... [or] whether there's a need to review it [the law].

''The question is have we inadvertently caught something that wasn't intended to be caught?''

Wests director Alf Loretan welcomed the news when contacted, but said the predicament faced by stores like his should have been considered before the law was passed.

''It's probably too late, because the damage has been done,'' he said.

Ms Adams said the 85% rule was established ''for a very good reason'', to allow wineries to sell platters, while restricting the proliferation of convenience stores selling alcohol.

But in Dunedin, Wests ''somewhat falls between the two'' and the issue needed to be looked at again, she said.

The outcome and timeframe ''depends on what the advice is'', but it was important to ensure any change did not ''inadvertently open a door to the sorts of things we don't want'', Ms Adams said.

''I'm not going to make a commitment as to where that goes, but as I said, I'm happy to look at it,'' Ms Adams said.

She rejected calls to reopen the debate on supermarket sales, despite Dunedin bar owners pointing the finger at off-licences, including supermarkets, as the biggest source of alcohol sales and alcohol-related harm.

Ms Adams said supermarkets remained ''very well regulated, controlled and run'' and had low levels of non-compliance or behavioural issues associated with alcohol they sold.

''What people do with the alcohol when they get it home, and whether they drink it responsibly and whether they go and cause harm, is another issue.

''It's very difficult to hold a supermarket responsible for what people do in their living rooms.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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