Local Alcohol Policies (LAPs) are being developed throughout New Zealand, with the first appeals on Provisional LAPs now having been heard by the Alcohol and Regulatory Licensing Authority (ARLA).
LAPs are policy documents that can be made by a territorial authority (or jointly with other territorial authorities), pursuant to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (SSAA). LAPs can address matters relating to the sale and supply of alcohol in the territorial authority’s (TA) geographical area, and their contents are limited to certain matters (set out in section 77 of the SSAA). LAP development involves consultation by the TA with the local community and reporting agencies (Police and Medical Officers of Health). Once a Draft LAP has been considered by a TA and submission heard, a Provisional LAP is then released by the territorial authority. A person who lodged a submission on the Draft LAP has the ability to appeal against aspects of the Provisional LAP to ARLA, and following that, to the High Court. Appeals however must focus on why a particular provision of a Provisional LAP is “unreasonable in the light of the object of the Act”.
Once a LAP is finalised and in place (following appeals, if any), licensing bodies (District Licensing Committees and ARLA) will have to consider the policy as part of the criteria they need to consider when they make decisions on licence applications.
Progress on LAPs
Draft LAPs are continuing to be developed throughout New Zealand. Auckland Council heard submissions in September, following receipt of a high volume of public submissions. Dunedin City Council also started its submission hearing process this week, with seven days set aside. Overall, Dunedin City Council received the highest number of submissions of any Council yet – with 4262 submissions filed.
Two territorial authorities, (Tasman and Waimakariri District Councils), which took the lead in developing Draft LAPs and then approving Provisional LAPs, have now had appeals heard by ARLA, and decisions are pending.
Numerous other territorial authorities have developed Provisional LAPs, but many of those are now being held in abeyance, pending the outcome of the Tasman and Waimakariri appeals. Overall, at least 20 Councils across New Zealand are facing appeals.
Other territorial authorities have taken more of a ‘watch and learn’ approach. For example, Hamilton City Council released and heard submissions on its Draft LAP relatively early in 2014. However, having heard submissions, Hamilton City Council has opted to defer deliberations and decision-making on the contents of its Provisional LAP until the outcome of other ARLA appeals is known, as it considers (reasonably in our view), that the same appeal issues may otherwise arise.
Overall, LAPs may represent a further and significant change to licensing, following in relatively quick succession from enactment of the SSAA and it taking full effect in December 2013. For hospitality providers LAPs may curtail operations significantly by amending the current national default trading hours to be more restrictive locally. They may also seek to restrict the type of licences that may be sought in different areas, impose a ‘one-way door’ policy, and/or seek to impose new discretionary conditions to licences.
We filed submissions for clients on a number of Draft LAPs throughout the country. A number of clients have been critical of aspects of the Drafts prepared by TAs. We are currently awaiting with particular interest the deliberations by Auckland Council on its Draft LAP (and submission received), with those deliberations due to occur in the coming fortnight.