This section will guide you through the process of making an objection to the issue or renewal of an off-licence in your community.
Find out about licence applications in your neighbourhood
Keep up to date with licence applications in your community. Some Councils have an online system whereby you can register to stay alerted – e.g. Auckland applications, whilst others may place current applications on their website, e.g. Dunedin, Hastings, Wellington. Also keep a look out on the windows of local shops and premises.
Gather your evidence
Think about all of the evidence that you can use to support potential objections in your community. Remember that you can only object in relation to the criteria in the Act. See our guide to the relevant sections of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act for objecting to a liquor licence application.
You may want to collect evidence whenever you have an opportunity – you don’t need to wait until an application for a new licence or renewal of an existing licence to collect evidence. It is useful if you always document any alcohol-related incidents in your community. Keep your eyes open and make use of the incident log below to build a portfolio of evidence of alcohol-related harm and negative effects on amenity and good order of your neighbourhood.
It is a good practice to start collecting evidence right after there are problems and you are concerned about the issue around a licensed premises. Use the incident log to help you.
This list may help you consider amenity and good order effects, but you could think of other examples:
It is useful if you always document any alcohol-related incidents in your community. You can use this incident log to help you.
Know the closing date for objections
Know the date of the first public notice of the application - you have 15 working days to make your objection from this date - write the final date of the 15 working day deadline for objections into your calendar or diary (note - working days do not include public holidays but do include regional anniversary days).
Think about all of the evidence that you can use to support an objection – check your incident log. Remember - you do not have to collect all of the evidence in the 15-working day deadline for an objection. You can ask to present additional evidence at the hearing. But make sure you provide some detail as to why licence applications do not meet the criteria in the Act.
Get others involved in your objection
Talk to others in your community who may share your concerns or be affected by the issue of the licence. Meet to talk about the application. Remember, they don't have to write their own objection - you could do a community objection in the form of a petition, or share a template for other community members to use. See below.
Think about getting school principals, church ministers, local businesses, and other community leaders involved. It doesn't just have to be residents.
Write your objection letter or petition
Feel free to use the templates below to create your own objection letter, for a new off-licence or an off-licence renewal.
Remember - you don't need to have all your information and evidence prepared within the 15 day deadline - you just need to outline your concerns in relation to the criteria in the Act. You can collect extra evidence to back up your objection before the hearing takes place.
Here are some tips:
Consider each of the criteria and aim to align your evidence to demonstrate the impact the licence will have on you or your community.
Make sure you are clear about what you want – i.e. do you want the licence to be refused altogether? Or would you be OK with the licence if certain conditions were in place (e.g. earlier closing time, noise controls)? Whatever the case, have some ideas about any special conditions you believe would be appropriate.
If you plan on collecting signatures in the form of a community petition, feel free to use this template:
Circulate the objection or petition template to others
Distribute the objection template to others in the community (those who live or work close to the premises). Encourage others to complete the objection letter and send to your local Council.
Or start to gather names, addresses and signatures on the community petition.
It is important that community objectors are able to attend a hearing of the District Licensing Committee in person.
It will be very useful to find out if the three reporting agencies (Council, Police and Health Authorities) plan to oppose the application. If there is opposition from the reporting agencies, your objection has a much better chance of success. If the reporting agencies know there is strong community opposition to the application, they may be more inclined to consider opposing the licence application.
Make sure that everyone is fully aware of the process including when the objection needs to be lodged and that they may be required to attend a hearing
Send your objection to the licensing team at your local council
Submit your objection to your local licensing team before the 15 working day deadline (note working days do not include public holidays but do include regional anniversary days). The public notification will include the address of where to send it to.
For assistance, contact the regulatory agencies in your area.
You will receive an acknowledgement of your objection fairly promptly. If you don’t it might be worth checking with the licensing team or secretary of the DLC. Keep gathering evidence - you can present this additional evidence at the hearing.
The applicant may ask to meet with the objectors to resolve issues
It is not uncommon for the applicant to seek to talk to the objectors to see if any perceived issues can be resolved. Remember that they have your contact details and the reasons for your objection.
It is up to you whether you meet the applicant. Do not feel coerced into doing so. Some communities have had successes with meeting applicants and issues have been resolved without a hearing taking place.
Preparing for the hearing
- If you want your objection to count you will need to attend the hearing. If you can’t attend the hearing please tell the hearings advisor, and nominate someone (another objector perhaps) to represent your objection.
- Summarise any further evidence that you have gathered since submitting your objection.
- Meet with other objectors or at least discuss the upcoming hearing with them. Identify any gaps, inconsistencies and how these might be addressed.
- Prepare a short summary of your key points and practice your presentation before the hearing.
Attend the hearing
If you want your objection to count you will need to attend the hearing. If you need to, arrange time off work and/or care for your children.
If you can’t attend the hearing please tell the hearings advisor, and nominate someone (another objector perhaps) to represent your objection.
Consider asking witnesses to present
Try to meet with other objectors or at least discuss the upcoming hearing with them. Identify any gaps, inconsistencies and how these might be addressed.
Arrange any witnesses and/or support people you might need. Think about noise specialists, etc.
If you are appearing on behalf of a group make sure everyone knows about the hearing, and allocate them a role if appropriate.
Prepare a short summary of your key points and practice it. Summarise any further evidence that you have gathered since submitting your objection.
Prepare to be cross-examined
You might be cross-examined so put yourself in the shoes of the applicant and think about any possible questions that they may wish to ask or challenge you on. Prepare some possible responses to these.
You may also have the opportunity to cross examine the applicant. If the regulatory agencies (council inspectors, health, police) are opposing and presenting evidence, you may have the opportunity to cross examine them too. Think about what questions you would like to ask them and write them down.
You might consider getting legal support. While there is usually a cost for this you might be able to get assistance.
You may consider contacting Community Law, or finding out if there are other community groups in your area with access to legal resources.
If you are approached by or informing the media regarding the objection/hearing extra care is needed as this is a legal process. For more information and advice, click here.
Be on time. Introduce yourself to Council staff when you arrive.
There will be four areas for participants to sit. The regulatory agencies will sit on one side and the objectors opposite. The applicant and their advisors sit opposite the committee chair and members. The committee will enter the room last – it is customary for all parties to stand while the committee takes their seats.
Follow the direction of the DLC/ARLA chair and respect the authority of the Committee or Authority. When speaking, speak clearly and confidently. If there is a microphone, ensure it is switched on when you speak (these sessions are usually recorded for transcription).
Submissions and cross examination
The hearing will start with the applicant making their case, providing statements and evidence to support their application and rebut concerns the reporting agencies or community objectors have identified. Once the applicant has made their submissions, the District Licensing Committee Chair and members will have an opportunity to ask questions or cross examine the applicant. Next the reporting agencies (Council Inspector, Police, Health) will have the opportunity to cross examine the applicant, followed by community objectors. Next, the reporting agencies will be have the opportunity to make a submission, which the Committee, applicant, and community objectors will have the chance to cross examine. Finally the community objectors have an opportunity to make their submissions. Once again all parties (the Committee, the reporting agencies, and the applicant) will have a chance to cross examine.
After all the submissions have been made and all parties have had a chance to cross examine each others submissions, some closing submissions may be made - sometimes this is done in writing after the hearing to save time on the day. The Committee Chair will usually let everyone know when a decision could be expected.
After the hearing – the decision
You will be advised of the decision and if you are not happy with this you have the right to appeal it. The information about how to do this and when should be included in the correspondence with the decision.
For more information on the Hearing Process, check out the Health Promotion Agency's document on licensing objections (page 24-28).