Liquor licence refusal precedent: principal

Jenny McDonald
Jenny McDonald
Being declined a special liquor licence to run an alcohol tent at a school fair has set a precedent for other community fundraising initiatives, a Mosgiel school principal says.

Yesterday, a Dunedin City Council hearing committee declined an application for a special licence by Elmgrove School based on ''overwhelming'' evidence from health officials, police and a licensing inspector.

''The message we have taken home with us is that anyone that is arranging an event in a public place with children around you cannot have people consuming alcohol,'' principal Jenny McDonald said

At the hearing Mrs McDonald rejected concerns the ''adult refreshment area'' would normalise the consumption of alcohol and stressed children were not allowed to enter the marquee, which would be sited discreetly.

''Children would not have been allowed in the alcohol tent just like parents wouldn't be allowed on the bouncy castles,'' she said after the decision.

''What was a low-key activity has been blown up into something extraordinary.''

The school had planned to sell a dozen 24-packs of beer it had been given and buy bottles of wine for resale by the glass.

As a consequence of the decision, the school had applied for a licence allowing that alcohol to be sold and consumed away from the school.

The school had earlier argued the alcohol would have been consumed in a safe environment.

Mrs McDonald said the school ran a successful wine-tasting event in 2010, and the inclusion of the alcohol tent at this year's event was to attract fathers, who ''don't go to white elephants [and] cake stalls'', she said.

At the hearing, chaired by councillor Andrew Noone and including Crs David Benson-Pope and Kate Wilson, it was confirmed the special liquor licence application was the first one to prompt an objection under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, which came into effect on June 18.

Dr Keith Reid, a public health physician with the Southern District Health Board, noted the fair would be held between 4pm to 7pm on a Saturday, to enable the maximum turnout of parents, particularly fathers.

He was concerned with the fair being promoted as a family/fundraising event, as ''the provision of alcohol is being used to attract adults to the event who might not otherwise attend''.

While organisers were complying with the Act's regulatory requirements, there was also a requirement to minimise harm associated with the inappropriate consumption of alcohol.

In his conclusion he noted ''that the matters involved are of considerable public interest and highly relevant to both the intention of the legislators in passing that Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act and the ability of society to tackle the ingrained cultural attitudes towards alcohol in New Zealand today''.

Dunedin alcohol harm reduction officer Sergeant Ian Paulin said police did not object to the application on regulatory grounds, as it knew Public Health South would object to the special licence.

Dunedin City Council liquor licensing and projects officer Kevin Mechen said the new legislation gave ''clear indication that there should be greater restrictions on where and when alcohol should be sold''.

Justice Minister Judith Collins said yesterday while she could not comment on specific cases, the Act ''provides a strong legislative framework for reducing alcohol-related harm with benefits for the whole community''.

''One of the key concerns of communities has been the exposure to alcohol and drinking impacting on young people.

"The Act provides tighter controls on who can get a licence to sell alcohol and how alcohol can be promoted to the public.

"It also provides new measures to give local communities more say in alcohol licensing decisions.''

- hamish.mcneilly@odt.co.nz

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