Licensing costs more than double

"A different year" in which "several things went a bit wrong" resulted in alcohol licensing costs more than doubling, a Southland District Council manager says.

Concern was raised at the council’s regulatory and consents committee meeting this week following the presentation of a report on the council’s alcohol licensing expenditure.

The report, by environmental health manager Michael Sarfaiti, said costs for professional services rose almost $17,000, more than doubling the council’s internal expenses in June, compared with June last year — rising from $60,472 to $144,526.

Cr Margie Ruddenklau questioned the "significant increase".

Mr Sarfaiti said alcohol licensing had "run quite smoothly" for the past five years, after the sale and supply of alcohol (fees) regulations 2013 bylaw was introduced.

However, last year was "a different year and several things went a bit wrong".

They included an undercollection of the council’s annual fees, the fact the alcohol bylaw fee was not reviewed this year due to Covid-19 and the decision administrative support would no longer be funded by ratepayers — which had the biggest financial impact.

Legal costs had also been particularly high, "almost heading towards $20,000", he said.

"That was largely related to an off-licence which may not have been issued correctly about 10 years ago."

Despite legal advice to the council at the time suggesting the issuing of the licence was correct, recent decisions made by the Government indicated the off-licence should not have been issued.

The issue had since been resolved, he said.

To make up for the expenditure, the council would use part of the uncollected annual fees, revise the sale and supply of alcohol (fees) regulations bylaw to increase fees and run a negative reserve over the next few years.

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