Frequently Asked Questions

This page has important information regarding applying for and objecting to licences to sell or supply alcohol. It does not replace the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, which should be referred to in cases of doubt.  


Applying for a licence  |  Objecting to a licence  |  Criteria for licences


 

Applying for a licence to sell or supply alcohol

Do you want to apply for a licence?  Here is what you need to know:

Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012

Application process

What is the criteria for applications?

Who decides whether a licence is granted?

How is the licensing decision made?

How do I appeal a decision?    


Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (SSAA) became law on 19 December 2012.

The Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) has replaced the former Liquor Licensing Authority and new licensing criteria and grounds for objections have replaced requirements in the old Act.

The Act came fully into effect on 18 December 2013, including the establishment of new District Licensing Committees (DLCs). DLCs consider all applications for licences in each territorial authority.

Application process 

  • Both contested and uncontested applications will be considered by a local District Licensing Committee (DLC).
  • A DLC can transfer an application to ARLA for decision if the chair of ARLA agrees.

What is the criteria for assessing applications?

When deciding whether to issue a licence, the DLC (or ARLA) must have regard to:
 

  • The object of the Act
  • The suitability of the applicant
  • Any relevant local alcohol policy
  • The days and hours of sale
  • The design and layout of premises
  • The sale of goods other than alcohol and refreshments
  • The provision of other services not related to the sale of alcohol and refreshments
  • Whether amenity and good order of the area would be substantially reduced
  • The undesirability of further licences where amenity and good order have already been reduced
  • Whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law
  • Any matters reported by the Police, an inspector or the Medical Officer of Health.

Further information on these criteria is included in the associated document titled ‘Criteria for objections to licences (305KB pdf)’.

The decision makers cannot take into account the impacts of the licence on business conducted under any other licence or other matters not covered by the criteria.

Note: District Plan consent requirements must be met before a licence is applied for.

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Who decides whether a licence will be granted or renewed?

The bodies that make decisions about licences are:
 

  • District Licensing Committee (DLC): DLCs consider all licence applications. The DLC is administered by your local Council and relevant information can be found here.
     
  • Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA): ARLA is the national decision making body for licensing and deals with matters referred to it by a DLC, the Police, a Licensing Inspector or the Medical Officer of Health. ARLA also deals with appeals against decisions of DLCs. For more information on ARLA, go to:  http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/alcohol-regulatory-and-licensing-authority 

The following people also have input into the licensing process:
 

  • Licensing Inspectors: Licensing inspectors work for each territorial authority but act independently to enforce the Act, monitor licences and advise the DLA (or DLC) and ARLA on applications. Licensing inspectors must provide a report to on each licence application.
     
  • Medical Officer of Health: The Medical Officer of Health is located in the local District Health Board. Medical Officers of Health must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application. 
     
  • Local Police: Police must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application, and a manager's certificate application.
  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand: The Fire Safety Officer checks that the building has a Fire Evacuation Scheme in place. 
     

How is the licensing decision made?

The DLC will consider and issue all licences and licence renewals. Provision is made for applications to be referred to ARLA for a decision but the Chair of ARLA must give leave for this to happen. If there are no objections the application may be granted without a public hearing. If there are objections a public hearing will be held unless the objection is deemed vexatious or the applicant does not require a hearing.

In considering any application for a licence, the DLC and ARLA, must consider the criteria of the Act, plus any relevant case law and decisions.

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How do I appeal a decision?

If you disagree with the DLC’s decision you can appeal to ARLA. Appeals against ARLA decisions are dealt with by way of a rehearing. You need to give a notice of appeal to ARLA within 10 working days of the date of the decision being notified to you.

There is a cost for filing an appeal. For more information on appeals, go to: http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/alcohol-regulatory-and-licensing-authority

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How to object to a licence to sell or supply alcohol

Are you concerned about proposals for a licensed premises in your neighbourhood?  Here is what you need to know:

Can I object to a licence?

What are the grounds for objection?

How do I talk about my concerns?

How do I make an objection?

Who decides whether a licence will be granted?

How is the licensing decision made?

How do I appeal a decision?          


Can I object to a licence?

You can object to the granting of a new licence or licence renewal if you have a ‘greater interest’ in the application than the public generally.

A person with a ‘greater interest’ could, for example, be someone living or working in the same street as the proposed premises, or a member of a board of trustees of a school or marae that is located nearby.

If you are a member of the public who is concerned about the general effects of alcohol in the community but who lives in another part of town and does not have a special interest in the application, it is likely that you do not meet the criterion of having ‘greater interest’ than the public generally.

If you are another licensee you may have a special interest in the application and object to the licence but any concerns about the impact of the licence application on your business will not be taken into account.

There is no cost for lodging an objection.

What are the grounds for objection?

You can now object to a liquor licence based on (but only on) any of the following criteria:

  • the object of the Act
  • the suitability of the applicant
  • any relevant provisions in any local alcohol policy that exists and is in force
  • the proposed days and hours of sale
  • the design and layout of the premises
  • the sale of other goods such as non-alcohol and low-alcohol drinks and food
  • the provision of other services
  • how the ‘amenity and good order’ of the area would be affected if the licence were or were not granted
  • whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law.

Further information on these criteria is included in the associated document titled ‘Criteria for objections to licences (305KB pdf)’.

The decision makers cannot take into account the impacts of the licence on a business conducted under any other licence or other matters not covered by the criteria. 

How do I talk about my concerns?

In your objection you will need to link your concerns to the criteria. For example, you may be concerned that another licensed premises in your street would add to existing noise, vandalism and disturbance. You might want to talk about the current situation (e.g. noise levels at night, rubbish etc.) and then your concerns about how this would be affected by a new licensed premises, or the renewal of the licence. If you have a concern about the suitability of the applicant you should have evidence that demonstrates the unsuitability of the applicant.  

How do I make an objection?

Your objection must be filed with the DLC within 15 working days after the first public notice about the application appears in the newspaper. The full postal address of the DLC will be included in the notification.

Your objection must be made in writing and include your full name, address and contact telephone number. You may object only in relation to matters that are able to be considered when granting a licence - the licence criteria. You should clearly set out the reasons for your objection and also state whether or not you wish to appear at any hearing. Your objection is likely to have greater effect if you attend the hearing personally and speak in support of your submission.

You can make an individual objection or participate in a written group submission, nominating one or two representatives to appear and present the objection at the hearing.

Once your objection is received, it becomes a public document and will be made available to the person applying for the licence and other people or organisations outside the DLC.

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Who decides whether a licence will be granted or renewed?

The bodies that make decisions about licences are:
 

  • District Licensing Committee (DLC): DLCs consider all licence applications. The DLC is administered by your local Council and relevant information can be found here.
     
  • Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA): ARLA is the national decision making body for licensing and deals with matters referred to it by a DLC, the Police, a Licensing Inspector or the Medical Officer of Health. ARLA also deals with appeals against decisions of DLCs. For more information on ARLA, go to: http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/alcohol-regulatory-and-licensing-authority

The following people also have input into the licensing process:
 

  • Licensing Inspectors: Licensing inspectors work for each territorial authority but act independently to enforce the Act, monitor licences and advise the DLA (or DLC) and ARLA on applications. Licensing inspectors must provide a report to on each licence application.
     
  • Medical Officer of Health: The Medical Officer of Health is located in the local District Health Board. Medical Officers of Health must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application. 
     
  • Local Police: Police must inquire into the application and may provide a report on a licence application, and a manager's certificate application.
  • Fire and Emergency New Zealand: The Fire Safety Officer checks that the building has a Fire Evacuation Scheme in place.   
     

How is the licensing decision made?

The DLC will consider and issue all licences and licence renewals. Provision is made for applications to be referred to ARLA for a decision but the Chair of ARLA must give leave for this to happen. If there are no objections the application may be granted without a public hearing. If there are objections a public hearing will be held unless the objection is deemed vexatious or the applicant does not require a hearing.

In considering any application for a licence, the DLC and ARLA, must consider the criteria of the Act, plus any relevant case law and decisions.

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How do I appeal a decision?

If you made an objection and you disagree with the decision you can appeal to ARLA. You need to give a notice of appeal to ARLA within 10 working days of the DLC decision being notified.

There is a cost for filing an appeal. For more information on appeals go to: http://www.justice.govt.nz/tribunals/alcohol-regulatory-and-licensing-authority

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Criteria for licences

The information below provides information on the criteria for licences to sell or supply alcohol under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012. Here is what you need to know:

Object of the Act

The suitability of the applicant

Any relevant local alcohol policy

The days and hours of sale

The design and layout of premises

The sale of goods other than alcohol and refreshments

The provision of other services not related to the sale of alcohol and refreshments

Whether amenity and good order of the area would be substantially reduced

The undesirability of further licences where amenity and good order have already been reduced

Whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law

Any matters reported by the Police, an inspector or the Medical Officer of Health     


Object of the Act

The object of the Act is that:
 

  • The sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly; and
  • The harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised.

Under the Act, alcohol-related harm includes:
 

  • any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness or injury (and related harm to society generally or to the community) resulting from excessive or inappropriate alcohol consumption.

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The suitability of the applicant

Suitability of an applicant may take into account: business or industry knowledge to effectively operate a licensed premises; recent experience in the industry; criminal history, association with undesirable people, or previous behaviour relating to the sale of alcohol. Suitability of the applicant is an issue that Police considers in the investigation of licence applications as it has access to information not generally available to the public. However community groups can provide information that may not be available to Police.

Where an existing licence is being renewed with no changes to conditions, the suitability of the applicant will be the only ground for objection.

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Any relevant local alcohol policy

Local alcohol policies (LAPs), adopted by territorial authorities, will be able to:

  • limit the location of on-, off- and club licensed premises in particular broad areas or near certain types of premises or facilities
  • limit further on-, off- or club-licences in a particular area
  • restrict or extend the maximum trading hours set in the Act (see below)
  • recommend discretionary conditions on licences or groups of licences
  • impose ‘one-way door’ restrictions that would allow patrons to leave licensed premises but not enter or re-enter during specified times.

LAPs cannot include policies on matters unrelated to licensing and must be reasonable and consistent with the object of the Act.

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The days and hours of sale

Default maximum trading hours are provided in the Act. They are:

  • between 8am on any day and 4am on the next day for on-licence and club premises
  • between 7am and 11pm on any day for off-licences.

As noted above, a local alcohol policy can set different maximum permitted trading hours. A DLC can issue a licence subject to more restrictive trading hours than national default hours or hours set out in LAPs.

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The design and layout of premises

Good design and layout can help reduce alcohol-related harm through providing less crowding, increased safety and security and a better quality of environment. Bar layout, seating, toilets, sound, lighting, building access, security systems, ventilation and temperature control are some of the many considerations in design and layout which have the potential to improve the atmosphere and reduce risk factors contributing to crime, disorder and alcohol-related harm. The ‘Guidelines for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design (CPTED)' for licensed premises’ issued in June 2012 by ALAC provide practical advice on design and layout. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

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The sale of goods other than alcohol and refreshments

In the case of supermarkets and grocery stores, the Act makes it clear they can sell alcohol where their principal business is the sale of food products. Regulations will be made to determine this. Retail off-licensed premises (for example bottle stores) will be permitted to have up to 15% of their sales from the sale of non-alcohol products. The Act also provides that off-licences may not be issued for premises where the principal business is the sale of automotive fuels.

However there is a range of other goods that may be considered inappropriate to sell in conjunction with alcohol. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

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The provision of other services not related to the sale of alcohol and refreshments

The Act provides that off-licences may not be issued for premises where the principal business is the repair and servicing of motor vehicles. However, there are a range of other services that may be considered inappropriate to provide in conjunction with alcohol. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

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Whether amenity and good order of the area would be substantially reduced

The Act specifies that in deciding whether amenity and good order would be reduced by more than a minor extent, the following must be taken into account:
 

  • current, and possible future, levels of noise, nuisance and vandalism
  • the number of other licensed premises in the area
  • Compatibility with the current and future use of surrounding properties.

Amenity and good order is the quality of being pleasant, attractive or agreeable. It has a physical, or tangible, component, which could include the character and appearance of a building; proximity to shopping facilities; provision of parking facilities, traffic density and movements; quality of infrastructure; absence of noise and disorder; and unsightliness or offensive odours. It could also incorporate intangible components such as psychological, social or moral components.

If the issuing of a licence could create disturbances or inconvenience, or the premises are not likely to be in harmony with the environment, this may affect the granting of a licence or may be grounds for objection. As case law is developed further guidance will be given.

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The undesirability of further licences where amenity and good order have already been reduced

The more alcohol outlets in an area the greater is the competition – which can lead to more discounting and longer opening hours. Lower prices stimulate demand and facilitate heavier consumption. Longer opening hours facilitate impulsive alcohol purchases. It is known that high outlet density is more common in lower socio-economic neighbourhoods, which leads to greater consumption and associated offences and secondary harms such as graffiti, obtrusive price advertisements, vulnerability to robberies, and general lower aesthetic value of the neighbourhood. These are not causal but they are associated factors.

The risks posed by outlet density will vary from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. For some areas, a concentration of outlets may be associated with increased consumption, higher levels of harmful drinking, or a variety of secondary harms that can undermine community wellbeing. Equally, high outlet density in other areas may have little or no effect in terms of these outcomes. The research shows that outlet density can create substantial problems for some communities but that this is highly variable for different areas.

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Whether the applicant has systems, staff and training to comply with the law

Among a range of requirements on licensees, managers and bar staff, the law makes it an offence to: serve minors or intoxicated people; allow intoxication or disorderly conduct; serve customers or allow them on the premises outside of licensing hours.

This requires effective systems and staff training – firstly in identifying and understanding what the requirements are, and secondly establishing and learning effective ways of dealing with situations that could breach licence conditions and lead to an increase in alcohol related harm. Relevant considerations could be the number and experience of managers and staff as well as the amount of training provided.

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Any matters reported by the Police, an inspector or the Medical Officer of Health

Based on information at their disposal, Police, inspectors or the Medical Officer of Health may make suggestions about whether the licence should be issued, and if it is – what conditions should be imposed on it to mitigate any risks that are perceived.

Each agency has access to information relevant to the application which can assist in the decision making process.

While an objection is allowable in relation to matters dealt with in reports from Police, inspectors or the Medical Officer of Health, there is no requirement for these reports to be made public.

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