Module 1: Inquiry

Alcohol licensing & hearings guide for regulatory agencies

In this first step of the licensing process, you inquire into the application and begin assessing it against the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act, SSAA).  You may also start working with the other regulatory agencies, gathering information and building your case.  The work you do here will form a building block for the later stages of the process.

Snapshot of this module

A pre-application meeting of the agencies and the applicant can help clarify issues before the application is lodged.

You need to make an initial assessment of applications based on the assessment criteria in the SSAA. 

Inspectors must inquire into and report on all applications for alcohol licences and Manager’s Certificates. There is no timeframe set in the SSAA for an Inspector’s report.

Police must inquire into applications for alcohol licences and Manager’s Certificates and provide a report if they have matters in opposition (within 15 days for alcohol licences and 20 days for Manager’s Certificates).

The Medical Officer of Health or their delegate must inquire into applications for alcohol licences and provide a report to the committee within 15 days if they have matters in opposition.

You can play an important role in supporting community members to participate in the licensing and hearing process.

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This module covers: 

    Pre-application considerations

    Councils have information on their websites to support applicants with their applications. While some applicants may contact the council to discuss their application, many will lodge their application without input from the council, Police or public health.

    The Inspector might offer the applicant a pre-application meeting if an application is complex or it will help clarify or resolve issues before the application is formally lodged. Depending on the nature of the application, the Police and the delegate of the Medical Officer of Health may also wish to attend the meeting.

    Receipt of applications

    The secretary of the District Licensing Committee (DLC) will formally acknowledge receipt of the application and then forward it to the local Police and Medical Officer of Health delegate.

    Initial assessment of the application

    You will need to make an initial assessment of all applications you receive, based on the assessment criteria set out in the Act: 

    • new licences - sections 105 and 106 
    • renewals - sections 105 and 131
    • special licences - section 142
    • Manager’s Certificates - sections 222 and 227.

    Depending on the specifics of the licence application, you may then meet with the other agencies and identify any information missing from the application. 

    Any agency may then:

    1. contact the applicant to request additional information
    2. seek a meeting with the applicant to gather additional information or discuss any issues with the application.

    Your role in inquiring into applications

    There are two types of applications which statutory agencies are required to inquire into – alcohol licences and Manager’s Certificates. The statutory agencies have different roles in inquiring into, and reporting on, applications:

    1. An application for a new or renewed alcohol licence involves the Licensing Inspector, the Police and the Medical Officer of Health or their delegate.
    2. An application for a new or renewed Manager’s Certificate involves the Licensing Inspector and the Police only.

    More detailed information is provided here for:

    Licensing Inspectors

    Your role when inquiring into applications for new, renewals and special licences

    If you are a Licensing Inspector, you must inquire into a licence application and file a report with the committee (section 103(2)). There is no statutory time requirement on you to report.

    If you have raised matters in opposition or concerns, or you are addressing matters in opposition raised by the Police or the Medical Officer of Health or their delegate, your report needs to state the reasons for any matters in opposition. For example, “We oppose this licence application because the hours are outside the national default hours and the applicant has failed five Controlled Purchase Operations in the last two years.” You will need to provide the committee with the evidence to back up your reasoning at the hearing.

    Your report should address the criteria set out in sections 105 and 106 of the Act (see Module 2 for more information).

    Even if you don’t oppose an application, you should consider adding relevant information that you know about the premises, or the area, that may assist the committee.

    Relevant information could include: maps; statistics, comparisons of hours and conditions; compliance history; any local alcohol policy; and Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design (CPTED) assessments.

    Your role when inquiring into applications for Manager’s Certificates

    You must inquire into an application for a Manager’s Certificate and file a report on the application with the committee. Your report should address the criteria set out in section 222 of the Act.

    Police

    Your role when inquiring into applications for new, renewals and special licenses

    As Police you must inquire into the licence application, and if you have any matters in opposition to it, you must file a report with the committee within 15 working days of receiving the application (section 103(3)). If you do not report to the committee within 15 working days, it may assume that the Police do not oppose the application (section 103(4)).

    You have three options when responding to a licence application:

    1. The Police have no matters in opposition.
    2. The Police have matters in opposition to this application (outline these) and we wish to be heard on those matters.
    3. The Police have concerns to raise with the Committee but do not request a hearing.

    If you choose not to file a s103 report, you could draft a memo to the committee stating that you have no matters in opposition. Although this is not required by the Act, it would help the committee process unopposed applications.

    If you choose to file a s103 report, your report must state the matters you have in opposition, and your reasons for opposing. For example, “Police oppose this application because the hours are outside the national default hours and the applicant has failed five Controlled Purchase Operations in the last two years.”  You will need to provide the committee with the evidence to back up your reasoning at the hearing. 

    The report must be sufficient for the applicant to understand the issues which they must respond to at a subsequent hearing (and/or in negotiation with the Inspector).

    Your report should address the criteria set out in sections 105 and 106 (see Module 2 for more information).

    Even if you don’t oppose an application, you should consider adding relevant information that you know about the premises, or the area, that may assist the committee.

    Your role when inquiring into applications for Manager’s Certificates

    As Police you must inquire into an application for a Manager’s Certificate, and if you have any matters in opposition, file a report on the application within 15 working days after receiving the application. Your report should address the criteria set out in section 222 of the Act.

    The DLC may assume that, if no report is received within 20 working days after the application is referred to you, you have no matters in opposition to the application.

    Medical Officer of Health or their delegate

    Your role when inquiring into applications for new, renewals and special licenses

    You must inquire into on-, off- and club licences (new and renewals).  You may inquire into special licences. If you have any matters in opposition to it, you must file a report within 15 working days of receiving the application (section 103(3)). If you do not report to the committee within 15 working days, it may assume that you do not oppose the application (section 103(4)).

    You have three options when responding to a licence application:

    1. The Medical Officer of Health has no matters in opposition.
    2. The Medical Officer of Health has matters in opposition to this application (outline these matters and the reasons for them) and we wish to be heard on those matters.
    3. The Medical Officer of Health has concerns to raise with the DLC but does not request a hearing.

    If you choose not to file a s103 report, you could draft a memo to the committee stating that you have no matters in opposition. Although this is not required by the Act, it would help the committee process unopposed applications.

    If you choose to file a s103 report, your report must state the matters that you have in opposition and your reasons for opposing. For example, “The Medical Officer of Health opposes this licence application because of the level of non-compliance at this premises over the last five years.” You will need to provide the committee with the evidence to back up your reasoning at the hearing.

    The report must be sufficient for the applicant to understand the issues to which they must respond to at a subsequent hearing (and/or in negotiation with the Inspector).

    Your report should address the criteria set out in sections 105 and 106 (see Module 2 for more information).

    Even if you don’t oppose an application, you should consider adding relevant information that you know about the premises, or the area, that may assist the DLC.

    Public notification of the application

    Once the applicant has provided all the necessary information they can publicly notify their application according to section 101 of the Act.

    Public notifications of any application for or renewal of an alcohol licence are to be either in a newspaper or on a website page established by the relevant council, or both. The number of public notifications required will be linked to the licensee risk framework. Low and very low risk premises will make two notifications for a new licence, but only one notification of any licence renewal application. All other premises will need to notify twice, between five and 10 days apart, for both new and renewal applications.

    Community involvement

    One of the key drivers of the Act was to improve community input into alcohol licensing decisions.

    What you can do to support community involvement

    You can play an important role in supporting community members to participate in the licensing and hearing process. This can start long before a hearing, and you should take an active interest in any potential community objection as it may have important considerations for your report on the application in question.

    As statutory agencies, you need to maintain your independence and ensure you fulfil your statutory obligations. You cannot actively promote positions to the community or draft their submissions. 

    However, you can:

    • provide information to the community about the application, the licensing process, and where to go for information
    • provide information about hearings processes to community members who have objected so that appearing before the DLC is less daunting
    • attend a community meeting to provide information about the application and the licensing process.

    Who can you work with to support community involvement?

    There are many people within the three statutory organisations that you can work with to inform the community about an application, or assist community objectors, including:

    • council community safety teams
    • council staff that work with young people
    • community boards
    • local health promoters
    • community police
    • neighbourhood policing teams.

    Talk to some of these people about how to inform and support the communities most affected by the licence application. 

    Providing information on community objections

    The High Court made specific comments on the importance of the agencies reporting on community concerns in Otara-Papatoetoe Local Board v Joban Enterprises Ltd [2012] NZHC 1406; NZAR 717. This is usually cited as the ‘Joban’ case. This case refers to the Sale of Liquor Act 1989, but the judgment is applicable to SSAA 2012 and to all the agencies who now report to the DLC.

    The judgment indicates that the Inspector, Police and Medical Officer of Health need to look into community concerns and provide information on them to the DLC or the Alcohol Regulatory Licensing Authority (ARLA). For example, if the community has concerns about late night drinking in a neighbourhood carpark, and the associated noise, litter and disturbance, then the agencies should investigate these concerns and provide relevant information to the DLC or ARLA.

    The Police and Medical Officer of Health need to lodge their s103 reports with the DLC within 15 days of receiving the application. Public objections need to be with the DLC within 15 days of the public notice of the application. As such, the Police and Medical Officer of Health do not have the opportunity to view community objections before lodging their report. Their responses to community concerns may need to be through a supplementary report to the committee.

    Disclaimer
    The information contained in this online guide is intended as a general guide.
    While reasonable measures have been taken to ensure that the information is current and accurate as at October 2017, the Health Promotion Agency cannot accept any liability for any inaccuracy, omission or deficiency in relation to the information. It is not legal advice and you should not rely on anything contained in this guide in any legal proceedings. The information provided does not replace or alter the laws of New Zealand, and you should consult the legislation and obtain your own legal and professional advice, as appropriate. The Health Promotion Agency will not accept liability for any action taken in reliance on anything contained in this online guide.

    Toolbox
    The Health Promotion Agency has a range of information available to support community participation in the process.