Background: the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012

Alcohol licensing & hearings guide for regulatory agencies

This introductory module provides an overview for regulatory agencies of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (SSAA) and alcohol licensing processes.

Snapshot of this module

SSAA aims to minimise harm from alcohol by managing the way it’s sold, supplied and consumed.

SSAA provides for community input to local alcohol licensing decisions.

Two bodies make decisions on alcohol licensing:

  1. District Licensing Committees (DLCs), which are administered by local councils and consider and decide on all applications for alcohol licences within their local areas
  2. the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA), which deals with most enforcement actions and also decides appeals against decisions of DLCs.

This module covers

  1. What you need to know about the Act
  2. District Licensing Committees
  3. The process for issuing alcohol licences
  4. Your role in the hearings process

1. What you need to know about the Act

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act, SSAA) aims to minimise harm from alcohol by managing the way it’s sold, supplied and consumed. The Act’s object is to:

  • ensure the safe and responsible sale, supply and consumption of alcohol
  • minimise the harm from excessive and inappropriate drinking, including crime, disorder, public nuisance and negative public health outcomes.

The Act provides for community input into local alcohol licensing decisions through public objections.

It also establishes an alcohol licensing system that includes two new decision-making bodies:

  • District Licensing Committees (DLCs), which are administered by local councils and consider and decide on all applications for alcohol licences within their local areas
  • the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA), which deals with most enforcement actions (eg, if someone sells alcohol in breach of the Act or their licence) and also decides appeals against decisions of DLCs.

The Act sets out the criteria for assessing alcohol licence applications. Decision makers (members of DLCs or the ARLA) must take into account a range of matters, including the:

  • object of the Act
  • provisions in any relevant local alcohol policy
  • impacts that a licence would have on ‘amenity and good order’ in the area.

Criteria for assessing applications

When deciding whether to issue an on-, off- or club licence, a DLC or ARLA must have regard to (s105):

  • 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
  • any matters in reports by the Police, the Licensing Inspector or the Medical Officer of Health.

When deciding whether to renew an on-, off- or club licence, a DLC or ARLA must have regard to (s131):

  • the matters set out in s105 (above) apart from those relating to amenity and good order
  • whether amenity and good order would be likely to be increased, by more than a minor extent, by the effects of a refusal to renew the licence
  • the manner in which the applicant has sold (or supplied), displayed, advertised, or promoted alcohol.

The decision makers can’t take into account the impacts of the new or renewed licence on business conducted under any other licence. This makes it clear that competition amongst licensed premises is not a relevant consideration.

The object of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012

Section 4 of the Act states in subsection (1) that the object of the Act is that:

“(a) the sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly; and

(b) the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised.”

Section 4 goes on to say:

“(2) For the purposes of subsection (1), the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol includes—

(a) any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness, or injury, directly or indirectly caused, or directly or indirectly contributed to, by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol; and

(b) any harm to society generally or the community, directly or indirectly caused, or directly or indirectly contributed to, by any crime, damage, death, disease, disorderly behaviour, illness, or injury of a kind described in paragraph (a).”

Local alcohol policies

A local alcohol policy (LAP) is a set of rules made by a council in consultation with its community about the sale and supply of alcohol in its local area. LAPs are developed under the Act and must be regarded in all decisions about alcohol licences. If a LAP exists, you need to consider what it says about the licence you’re seeking, in addition to what the Act says.

LAPs can cover the following of:

  • limiting the location of licensed premises in particular areas, such as near schools, community centres, playgrounds or churches
  • controlling the density (or total number) of licensed premises by stating whether new licences can be issued in an area
  • imposing conditions on particular types of licence as well as the conditions already provided for in the Act such as a ‘one-way door’ condition that would allow patrons to leave premises but not enter or re-enter after a certain time
  • restricting or extending the maximum trading hours set in the new Act, which are:
    • 8am to 4am for on-licences (such as pubs and restaurants)
    • 7am to 11pm for off-licences (such as bottle stores and supermarkets).

If a local council decides to have a LAP, it must:

  1. develop a draft LAP in consultation with Police, licensing inspectors and Medical Officers of Health
  2. consult the community on the draft policy using the special consultative procedure in the Local Government Act 2002
  3. prepare a provisional policy based on consultation feedback
  4. give public notice of the provisional policy. The LAP can be appealed at this stage
  5. adopt the provisional policy. A provisional policy becomes final 30 days after it's publicly notified (or after any appeals are resolved)
  6. give public notice of the LAP’s adoption and the date it'll come into effect (as determined by council resolution).

For further information on local alcohol policies go to www.alcohol.org.nz/alcohol-management-laws/licensing-local-policies/local-alcohol-policies

Amenity and good order

DLCs and ARLA have to consider ‘amenity and good order’ when deciding whether to grant a new licence or renew an existing one. For a new licence they must consider whether granting the application would reduce the amenity and good order of the locality to more than a minor extent (section 105(1)(h) of the Act). For a renewal they have to consider whether declining to renew the licence would increase the amenity and good order of the locality by more than a minor extent (section 131(1)(b)).

Amenity and good order is described in the Act (section 5) as the extent to which, and ways in which, the locality in which the premises is situated is pleasant and agreeable.

In deciding whether amenity and good order would be reduced or increased by more than a minor extent, the decision makers must take into account (section 106):

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

Regulations

The Act is supported by regulations.  The regulations provide the technical details that underpin the Act and may be subject to frequent change.  

2. District Licensing Committees (DLCs)

DLC are set up under the Act and are administered by local councils. They’re independent decision-making bodies. Within their local areas, DLCs decide applications for:

  • new on-, off-, club and special licences
  • renewals of on-, off- and club licences
  • new and renewed Manager’s Certificates
  • variations of licence conditions
  • enforcement action for special licences.

Each DLC is made up of a chairperson (who can be either a councillor or a commissioner) and two members appointed from a list of members approved by the council. The committee members have experience relevant to alcohol licensing matters (and can include elected members of the council). A commissioner is someone who is not a councillor but has the required knowledge, skill and experience relating to alcohol licensing, and is appointed under the Act.

The members must not be people who could be biased due to their current involvement in the alcohol industry, and for each hearing there’s a process to check that no one on a DLC has any conflict of interest.

The role of the DLC is to consider and decide licence applications. This includes listening to evidence and arguments for and against applications and making decisions on them. The DLC is an independent and impartial body that makes its decisions by considering the reports and evidence presented to it against the criteria in the Act and any relevant case law. While the committee is administered by the council, and may include councillors, it makes its decisions independently of the council, according to the provisions of the Act.

If there are any public objections to a licence application or opposition from reporting agencies, or the DLC decides that it wishes to call a hearing, the applicant is invited to attend a DLC hearing.

Hearings are reasonably formal so that applications are dealt with consistently and fairly, and all parties are given a fair opportunity to present their cases. DLCs have powers under the Act to require documents to be provided and summon (ie, require attendance by) witnesses. Hearings are usually held at council offices, although the chairperson can decide to hold them somewhere else.

DLC hearings are open to the public, and the news media may be present. Sometimes the committee will decide to exclude the public from parts of the hearing, or limit the public release of information eg, for commercial or privacy reasons.

Depending on the nature of the case, a hearing can last anywhere from half an hour to a full day or several days. While all DLCs follow the same basic processes, each operates slightly differently. Some are less formal, operating more like a meeting, while others are more formal and operate more like a court.

3. The process for issuing alcohol licences

The following chart sets out the process for issuing alcohol licences

The Process for issuing alcohol licenses

4. Your role in the hearings process

The object of the Act is that the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol are undertaken safely and the harm caused by excessive or inappropriate use of alcohol is minimised.

The role of a DLC under the Act is to consider and decide on applications for alcohol licences and Manager’s Certificates. This includes listening to evidence and arguments for and against applications and making decisions on them, in accordance with the Act.

As a Licensing Inspector, Police Officer, Medical Officer of Health or delegate, your role is to provide the committee with information on the applications before them. 

The information you provide is critical to the committee’s ability to make well-informed decisions on licence applications. A DLC has the powers of a Commission of Inquiry and can request information. The 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.  Even if you do not oppose the application, you must be prepared to provide any information requested by the Committee and make yourself available to attend hearings.