Module 2: Report writing

Alcohol licensing & hearings guide for regulatory agencies

Your report to the District Licensing Committee (DLC) is an important part of the application process. Your report will provide crucial information for the committee to consider in its decision making. This module provides guidance and tools for drafting your report.

Snapshot of this module

Your report should outline your position on the application, the legal grounds for your position, and could outline the evidence you intend to bring to support it.

Your report must contain sufficient detail for the applicant to understand the issues they need to respond to at a hearing. At a hearing you may be confined to the matters raised in your report.

Once the DLC has received the application, all reports from the statutory agencies, and any public objections, it will hold a hearing or make a decision ‘on the papers’.

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This module covers: 

    Preparing your report for the committee

    This section provides guidance for drafting reports to the District Licensing Committee.

    Preparing your report – guidance for Inspectors

    Inspectors must inquire into, and report to, the DLC on all applications.

    Your report is an important part of the licensing process. It provides crucial information for the committee in its decision making. In addition to providing detailed information on the application, your report outlines your position on the application, the legal grounds for your position, and the evidence you intend to bring to support it. It will form the basis of your case for any hearing: you may not be able introduce new points at the hearing that were not outlined in your report. If the committee decides to deal with the application ‘on the papers’ (without a hearing), your report must put forward the whole case you wish to make. The DLC may call a hearing if you oppose the application or a member of the public objects (unless they do not want a hearing).  Committee members cannot use their own knowledge in deciding an application (except that gathered during a site visit). They can only make decisions based on the evidence and submissions they receive. 

    Many organisations have templates that guide you through your report writing. Check if your organisation has a reporting template that you should use.  You can find some templates and examples of reports in the Toolbox for this module.

    When do you need to report?

    The Act does not set a timeframe for your report to the DLC. While you can begin a draft of your report, you cannot complete it until you have received all public objections and any reports from the other regulatory agencies. Public objections must be received within 15 working days after the first publication of the public notice. The Police and Medical Officer of Health must report within 15 working days after the application is sent to them. Once you have all this information, you can finish your report.

    How detailed should your report be?

    Provide as much detail in your report as you can. Your report needs to contain enough information for the applicant to understand the issues they need to address at a hearing. Failure to comply with these requirements will most likely be a breach of natural justice. At any subsequent hearing you may be confined to the matters raised in your report.  By providing a comprehensive report you will reduce the work you need to do for the hearing. 

    Your report generally sets out an overview of a case, while a brief of evidence provides detail to underpin the case. For example, a report might allude to areas of non-compliance, while a brief of evidence would set out the specific times, dates and areas of non-compliance in detail. However, if you draft a detailed and thorough report, you may not need to write a brief of evidence for the hearing. You could also attach relevant documents such as the existing licence and any Alcohol Management Plan.

    What should your report cover?

    Your report should include:

    • application type
    • applicant and premises details
    • principal purpose and description of premises
    • days and hours sought
    • description of site location, surrounding area and any planning issues
    • details of Duty Managers
    • assessment of application against the criteria under the Act
    • relevant law – tagging the issue to specific sections of the Act
    • analysis – establishing the issue’s relevance or link to the section(s) of the Act.  Draw on research and evidence that supports the case and use precedents that support the links and the desired outcome
    • general reporting – including observations of the premises, prior levels of compliance, discussions with the licensee, manager or other relevant persons, and other information sources such as Controlled Purchase Operations etc
    • recent monitoring – if the application is for a Temporary Authority or a Renewal then you will continue monitoring the premises up until the hearing date.  Include this recent monitoring information in your report (any issues that arise from monitoring that occurred after you lodged your report can be covered in a supplementary report)
    • details of public notification and any public objections received
    • any matters raised in reports from the Police or the Medical Officer of Health
    • possible options for conditions if the licence is issued
    • your comments
    • conclusion – this should follow logically from the analysis.  Remember, the conclusion is yours and it would be inappropriate to imply that the committee would be bound by the same conclusion – if the case is strong, that will follow anyway
    • recommendation –the committee will evaluate any recommendations in the context of all the information and arguments that have been presented to it.

    Preparing your report – guidance for Police and Medical Officers of Health

    When do you need to report?

    You must report to the committee within 15 working days of receiving a copy of the application if you have matters in opposition.

    How detailed should your report be?

    Your report does not have to be comprehensive at this stage but it must contain enough information for the applicant to understand the issues they need to address at a hearing. The requirements of natural justice mean that a committee might not allow you to rely at hearing upon matters not raised in your report. This means that, at hearing, you may be confined to the matters raised in your report. Also, if the DCL decides to deal with the application ‘on the papers’ (without a hearing), your report must put forward the whole case you wish to make.

    Given the 15 day timeframe you may not always be able to provide a comprehensive and detailed report to the DLC. In such cases, you should at least flag your key concerns (matters in opposition). Drafting a short report to the DLC outlining your matters in opposition is preferable to attempting a detailed report, missing the deadline, and failing to register your concerns with the committee.

    Your report generally sets out an overview of a case, while a brief of evidence provides detail to underpin the case. For example, a report might allude to areas of non-compliance, while a brief of evidence would set out the specific times, dates and areas of non-compliance in detail.

    If you have time and want to draft a detailed and thorough report, then do so. You could attach relevant documents such as the existing licence and any Alcohol Management Plan to your report. If you provide a detailed report you may not need to write a brief of evidence for the hearing.

    What should your report cover?

    At a minimum your report should:

    1. Indicate your general position on the application (eg, no matters in opposition, or matters in opposition)
    2. Identify the specific provisions in the Act that you are relying on (eg s105(1)(h)).
    3. Explain how those considerations are relevant in this case. In explaining this, it is recommended that you reflect the language of the particular provisions you are relying upon as closely as possible. This will help ensure that you genuinely turn your mind to permitted grounds of opposition. (eg: This application is for the licensing of premises that would be located in an alcohol ban area. Granting it would present a clear risk that alcohol sold from the proposed premises would be consumed in breach of that ban. This would compromise good order within the locality. The Medical Officer of Health considers that this is likely and that the effects of this would be more than minor.)

    Your position can be fleshed out in more detail in briefs of evidence and other material prepared for the hearing, should the matter proceed to hearing.

    It is possible that, once aware of your concerns, an applicant might decide to amend its application. Ideally, an applicant will have engaged with the reporting agencies before filing an application. Where prior engagement has not occurred, it can occur after application. In such circumstances, a report that raises matters in opposition will provide a basis for future engagement. To that end, you might wish to add comment along the following lines:

    The applicant’s application was filed without prior engagement with the Medical Officer of Health. However, the Medical Officer of Health remains open to engagement with the applicant in relation to any of the matters raised in opposition in this report.

    An applicant’s prospects of successfully arguing breach of natural justice will be significantly reduced if it has not availed itself of an express invitation to engage with the reporting agencies on matters raised in opposition.

    If you have time, the report could also include:

    • an outline of the evidence you intend to provide to support your position.
    • a conclusion – this should follow logically from the analysis. Remember, the conclusion is yours and it would be inappropriate to imply that the committee would be bound by the same conclusion. If the case is strong that will follow anyway.
    • general reporting – this includes observations of the premises and discussions with the licensee, manager or other relevant persons and other information sources such as Controlled Purchase Operations etc. Because you may wish to read your report as evidence, it is useful to consider the issue of hearsay evidence. Hearsay evidence is given weight if the person being quoted is present at the hearing and is therefore able to be called as a witness and cross-examined on the matter if there is contention
    • recommendation – the DLC will evaluate any recommendation in the context of all the information and arguments that have been presented to it. 

    Decisions on applications

    When the application, all reports from the statutory agencies, and any public objections have been lodged, the secretary of the DLC will send these materials to the DLC for it to consider and issue a decision.

    One of two things will happen:

    1. There will be a hearing. The Act says that this must happen if there are any public objections (unless the objections are vexatious or the objectors do not require a hearing). It may also happen if there is any opposition from a reporting agency to a licence application. Also, if the DLC is thinking of declining an application, or if it wants to impose conditions outside of those the applicant has applied for, the committee may arrange a hearing to give parties a chance to have their say. You will have at least ten days notice of a hearing. If there is a hearing, a decision will be made following the hearing and the committee may decide to decline the application, or approve it with conditions. If you oppose the application you will need to prepare for, and attend, the hearing. Even if you do not oppose, and the public hearing results from opposition from other reporting agencies, or from public objection, you should attend because the committee may find it helpful for you to answer questions.
    2. Alternatively, the DLC will make a decision without a hearing (‘on the papers’). In this case, unless the application is for a temporary authority (which has to be considered by a full DLC) the chair of the DLC will make the decision.  

    The diagram below shows the process for issuing alcohol licences

    The Process for issuing alcohol licenses

    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.