The Alcohol Reform Bill returns to the House for its committee-stage debate tomorrow. The Bill is a disappointment in many ways, with many of the Law Commission’s more substantive recommendations ignored, but one provision that has the power to do a lot of good is the one that gives local Councils the power to regulate liquor outlets by way of Local Alcohol Policies.
There has been a palpable shift in community attitudes to alcohol abuse in recent years. Communities have felt powerless and angry at the proliferation of corner liquor stores, extended opening hours, and the marketing of cheap booze. Local Alcohol Policies will allow Councils to regulate the number and location of outlets, as well as opening hours.
But for some strange reason the Government has ignored the calls of Councils who have told them that the Bill’s 12 month delay before the framework for the policies becomes operative is just too long.
It means that after the 12 month delay, a month for notification and appeals, and then another three months’ public notice for policies that affect opening hours, it could be up to 16 months before Councils’ new alcohol policies start to bite.
That is way too long.
I’m putting up an amendment that will reduce the wait to three months. This should be plenty of time for police and social agencies to get ready. Add four more months for public notification and it will mean new Local Alcohol Policies will be up and running within seven months.
It won’t affect the people I represent in West Auckland. The presence of the licensing trusts out here ensures socially responsible management of liquor marketing, but this provision will make a big difference everywhere else. Let’s just make it happen more quickly.