A licence must be obtained to sell alcohol
Anyone who wishes to sell or supply alcohol to be consumed off-premise must apply for an off-licence from the local licensing body.
Licence applications must be publicly notified
An off-licence application must be publicly notified at the premises and either in the local paper or designated website. Check with your local council for their requirements.
You will need to check the website or look out for notices in the local newspapers or local area to be aware of licence applications. Please note that some premises may put the public notice somewhere that may not be noticeable to the public (e.g. the notice may be posted on somewhere that is far from the entrance).
Three agencies make inquiries into the application
Once an application is made, Council licensing inspectors, Public Health officers, and Police licensing officers commence their investigations in relation to the application. Other agencies can also look into the application (e.g. Fire Service).
Council licensing inspectors, Police, and Health must inquire into all off-licence applications. If the Police and/or Health authorities wish to oppose the application, they must send their report to the Licensing Committee within 15 working days (note - working days do not include public holidays but do include regional anniversary days) after receiving the application file from the Council.
The Council is not required to report within 15 working days - they may take longer.
The community can object to an application
You can make an objection to the application if you have a “greater interest” than the public generally.
A person with ‘greater interest’ means you could be living or working near (e.g. within 1-2km) the proposed or existing premises, or you’re a member of a Board of Trustees of a school or Marae near the premises. You can object to both new licences and renewals of licences.
Note: The above requirements do not apply to licence applications for the online sales of alcohol, as alcohol may be delivered from a premises to anywhere in the country. If you have concerns about an online sales application, you can object. However, we note that it can be hard to find out about online sales applications in other parts of the country.
Please note that your name and contact details need to be provided in your objection. Your objection and contact details are given to the applicant. The applicant may seek to amend their application based on your objections (e.g. by reducing their trading hours) or they may use your objection to prepare a response at a public hearing.
You can also object to a licence as a community group. Your objection letter can act as a petition, gathering signatures from people who have a greater interest than the public generally. If you choose this method, it is important to include in the petition the name and address of a spokesperson or contact person, including an email address. Each objector in the petition must include their name and address clearly, as well as their signature.
Alternatively, you could create an objection letter template which you can print off and distribute throughout the local community.
You will have 15 working days (note - working days do not include public holidays but do include regional anniversary days) to lodge an objection against an off-licence from the date of the first notification (this could be an online notice or date published in a local newspaper, whichever is first).
Once the list of objectors is finalised and given to all three agencies, some applicants (and their agents) may invite objectors to a meeting to discuss their concerns. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, do not feel pressured to attend.
Although your contact details in an objection letter are not published, if you take part in the public hearing your name and objection will become public record.
Objections can only relate to specified criteria
There are a range of criteria that are used in decisions whether or not to grant a licence. The criteria are:
- the object of the Act (the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised)
- the suitability of the applicant
- any relevant local alcohol policy
- the days on which and the hours during which the applicant proposes to sell alcohol:
- the design and layout of any proposed premises:
- whether the applicant is engaged in, or proposes on the premises to engage in, the sale of goods other than alcohol, low-alcohol refreshments, non-alcoholic refreshments, and food, and if so, which goods:
- whether the applicant is engaged in, or proposes on the premises to engage in, the provision of services other than those directly related to the sale of alcohol, low-alcohol refreshments, non-alcoholic refreshments, and food, and if so, which services:
whether (in its opinion) the amenity and good order of the locality would be likely to be reduced, to more than a minor extent, by the effects of the issue of the licence:
- whether (in its opinion) the amenity and good order of the locality are already so badly affected by the effects of the issue of existing licences that—
- they would be unlikely to be reduced further (or would be likely to be reduced further to only a minor extent) by the effects of the issue of the licence; but
- it is nevertheless desirable not to issue any further licences:
Many community members focus their objections on the trading hours, impact on amenity and good order, suitability of the applicant and object of the Act. But you can use any of the above criteria. However, you must focus your objection only in relation to the above criteria.
What is amenity and good order?
In relation to amenity and good order, the Act requires that the Licensing Committee must have regard to the following matters (as they relate to the locality):
- current, and possible future, noise levels
- current, and possible future, levels of nuisance and vandalism
- the number of premises for which licences of the kind concerned are already held
Other considerations in relation to amenity and good order are the extent to which the following purposes are compatible:
- the purposes for which land near the premises concerned is used:
- the purposes for which those premises will be used if the licence is issued.
If the application is for a licence renewal, the Licensing Committee must have regard to:
- current, and possible future, noise levels
- current, and possible future, levels of nuisance and vandalism.
Seeking to have conditions included on the licence
It may be that you do not object to the granting of a licence, but object to the trading hours that are proposed. Or perhaps you would like some conditions attached to the licence. This is absolutely fine - make it clear in your objection letter that this is the case and what hours or conditions you would prefer.
Examples of conditions you might seek for an off-licence might include:
- Prohibiting the sale of single alcoholic beverages
- Requiring off-licences to close between 3-4pm (to protect children from exposure to alcohol advertising when children leave school)
- Prohibiting the sale of certain types of products
- Prohibiting sales to persons in school uniforms
- Not displaying RTDs at the principal entrance to the store or within three metres of front windows
- Limiting external advertising to one sign identifying the trading name of the premises
- Windows to be clear and free from brand advertising
- No use of portable signage such as flags or sandwich boards
If conditions are not to be placed on a licence, will the licensee sign an undertaking?
Sometimes it can be difficult to have conditions imposed on the licence - but this doesn't mean that you can't discuss these with the applicant and encourage them to sign an undertaking instead.
An undertaking is a formal written statement (can even be in an email) that the applicant promises to adhere to certain requirements.
For example, the applicant could agree that they:
- won't dispose of bottles and trash outside the premises between x hour and x hour
- truck or van deliveries will not occur between x hour and x hour
- private rubbish contractor collections will only occur as per the agreed delivery times noted above.
- nominated residents and the licensee will communicate about and / or resolve any issues in a responsible manner.
If there are breaches to these undertakings, they can be used when the licence comes up for renewal. It is important that all breaches are recorded in an incident log.
Having conditions included on a licence is preferable to gaining a licensee's undertaking.
Objections are processed by the local Council licensing inspector
Send your objection to your local Council. Email is usually the best form of communication.
The Council should write to you to acknowledge your objection. The inspector will assess your objection and determine if you meet the criteria for having a “greater interest” than the public generally and that your objection relates to the specified criteria.
Community objections proceed to a public hearing
If you object, the District Licensing Committee (DLC) will hold a public hearing. It is very important that you attend this hearing if you want to make your objection count. Objections from persons who do not attend the hearing are unfortunately given little weight.
The file of reports from the three agencies, together with community objections, is forwarded to the Hearings Advisor for the DLC.
The date, time, and location of the hearing will be sent to you from the Hearings Team. They will inform you of the process and deadlines to submit further evidence (if you wish to present any).
By law, the DLC must give at least 10 working days' notice of the public hearing to all parties. If your objection is in the form of a petition, they will contact the spokesperson.
Information about upcoming hearing dates may be available on the website of each Council.