Case for Change

Special licences are for special events, such as a festival, or when licenced premises wish to extend their hours beyond their usual licenced hours for a special event such as a wedding.

Alcohol sold or supplied must be consumed on the premises, rather than being taken away for consumption off the premises.

Alcohol-related harm may result from one-off drinking occasions, especially when a large number of people are present and the event has a long duration. The quantity of alcohol supplied in the event is very important in terms of reducing harm.

Communities can have a say on special licence applications - this section shows you how.

Availability of alcohol in a community

The more that alcohol is available in a community, the higher the levels of harm it is likely to experience.

Availability of alcohol can be reduced by:

  • limiting the number of places that sell alcohol
  • reducing the hours that a licensed premises is open
  • placing conditions on a liquor licence

This section explains why each of these strategies is important.

Limiting the number of places that sell alcohol

The more alcohol outlets in an area, the more hazardous drinking occurs, and therefore more harm.

When a community has a high number of places that sell alcohol (licensed premises), it is more likely that its residents will experience alcohol-related harms such as violence, assaults, drink driving, child maltreatment, and heavy drinking among adolescents.

Having a high number of places that sell alcohol may also lower the amenity and good order in a community - this is because heavy drinkers may cause violence, street disturbance, litter, vomit, property damage, etc. Premises may also attract people to an area, whether or not they drink in the premises.

In New Zealand, there are more places that sell alcohol in low income communities [1]. 

Young Māori and Pacific males (i.e. 18-24 years) are more negatively impacted by living in close proximity to places that sell alcohol. Young European females are most affected by living in communities with a high number of places that sell alcohol [2]. 

Reducing the hours that a licensed premises is open

Special licences are granted at the discretion of the District Licensing Committee in line with the requirements of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012). 

A Local Alcohol Policy can determine maximum trading hours for a special licence.  A Local Alcohol Policy may also contain a suite of discretionary conditions that can be placed on a special licence.  The licence will specify times that they are able to sell alcohol, and list specific conditions the licensee must adhere to.

You can influence the trading hours of events and premises with special licences in your community by objecting to special licence applications.

Placing conditions on liquor licences

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allows licensing decision makers to place conditions on a liquor licence. Some are compulsory conditions, for example:

  • Stating the days (or dates) and hours during which alcohol may be sold
  • Stating a place or places on the premises at which drinking water is freely available to customers

In addition, licensing decision makers have the discretion to add further conditions (over and above the compulsory conditions) to the licence to minimise alcohol-related harm associated with the individual premises.

If the council has a local alcohol policy in place, specific conditions may be imposed as required by that policy.

Discretionary conditions may include (but are not limited to):

  • Prohibiting the sale of certain types of products
  • Specifying types of containers in which alcohol is to be provided
  • Specifying types of containers in which alcohol is not to be provided
  • Restricting the use of outdoor areas for dining or drinking after a specified hour.
  • Management plans, Resource Management act certificates, and Police liaison for large scale events

Further examples of licence conditions can be found here.

Research shows that these types of approaches may be limited in their effectiveness if not accompanied by stronger evidence-based restrictions to the availability of alcohol [10]. Research also shows that discretionary conditions are more effective if they are applied in a consistent manner [10].