1.2.1 The relationship between councils and DLCs

Territorial authorities (city and district councils) have a range of powers and responsibilities under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act). They have many important functions relating to DLCs. Councils:

  • appoint DLCs
  • maintain a list of eligible DLC members
  • may appoint commissioners
  • appoint the chair of the DLC
  • provide administrative support to the DLC
  • provide training and technical support.

Councils appoint DLCs

Every territorial authority must have one or more district licensing committees (DLCs) to make decisions on all licences and manager’s certificates.

A DLC must be made up of a chairperson and two committee members.

The two committee members are selected from a list of DLC members chosen and maintained by councils.

A council can appoint a deputy chair to act in place of the chair if the chair is ill or overseas, or for other sufficient reasons.

Councils maintain a list of DLC members

Councils must set up and maintain a list of potential DLC members. People on the list must have experience relevant to alcohol licensing but must not be:

  • involved in the alcohol industry to an extent that there may be bias or perceived bias
  • a police officer, a Medical Officer of Health, an alcohol licensing inspector, or an employee of a territorial authority.

Councils may also appoint commissioners

Commissioners must have “good standing in the community” and “the necessary knowledge, skill, and experience relating to matters that are likely to come before the committee”. Just as with members, commissioners must not be:

  • involved in the alcohol industry to an extent that there may be bias or perceived bias
  • a police officer, a Medical Officer of Health, an alcohol licensing inspector, or an employee of a territorial authority.

Councils might appoint commissioners to reduce the likelihood of conflicts of interests arising or to enhance the DLC’s skills and experience in licensing matters.

Councils appoint the chair of the DLC

A chair can be either an elected member of council or a commissioner.

An elected member who is appointed as the chair of a DLC is not required to have experience in alcohol licensing, though it is desirable (for instance, they may have chaired the council’s Hearings Committee that previously determined applications for special licences). While they are not required to have alcohol licensing experience, they should have relevant chairing experience in council committees or resource management hearings.

Commissioners appointed as chairs should have specialist skills and expertise in conducting hearings and in alcohol licensing.

Councils provide resources and administrative support to the DLC

Councils are responsible for resourcing and supporting DLCs so that they can fulfil their obligations under the Act effectively. The level and nature of support may vary across councils depending upon their size and capability. 

Depending on the council, either the secretary of the DLC or the administrative staff will:

  • administer the application process – this includes receiving the application and building the file until it is ready for the DLC to consider
  • prepare for a hearing – this includes ensuring documents are provided to parties, the room is set up as directed by the DLC, the room is large enough and has sufficient seating, and recording equipment is available and working
  • liaise with the applicant, the inspector, Police, the Medical Officer of Health, objectors and council staff in relation to matters like hearing dates, the provision of further information, and the exchange of submissions and evidence.

The secretary can be directed by the committee by way of a Directions Minute to undertake a particular inquiry that may assist the DLC to deal effectively with any matter before it.

Regardless of the size of the council, certain principles of transparency must be adhered to. The DLC’s key relationship with the council should be through the secretary of the DLC. The DLC should not have a close relationship with the inspector or any other council staff. Any DLC contact with staff (including inspectors), should be made through the secretary to ensure the transparency of the process and avoid any suggestion of pre-determination.

While the secretary has an important role in liaising with, and supporting, the DLC, the secretary should not:

  • write DLC decisions
  • sit with the DLC at hearings
  • be present at, offer advice to, influence or control the DLC’s deliberations or decision making at any stage.

Council should provide a means for independent legal advice for the DLC as there may be times that both the inspectors and the DLC wish to seek advice and the in-house legal team may end up being conflicted.

Councils can provide training and technical support

DLC members need ongoing training and support. The type and level of support required will depend on the size and capability of the council. Support may come from council staff such as the DLC secretary or members of the council’s legal team. Councils can also hire external people to provide specific technical guidance eg, on hearing procedures, the assessment of evidence and submissions, and writing decisions.

In some regions, councils coordinate shared training for DLCs from across the region. Councils also hold regular training and invite DLCs from other areas to attend. This is a great way for DLCs to upskill and network.

Training support can also come from national bodies such as Local Government New Zealand and the Health Promotion Agency. It is worth finding out about resources and training opportunities that these agencies provide.

You could find out more about how other DLCs work by:

  • attending a hearing in another district
  • holding a regional meeting with neighbouring DLCs to share your experiences and practices
  • asking other DLC chairs or commissioners to speak to your district licensing committee
  • joining the national DLC network.

Back to 1.2 Council roles and responsibilities

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 2019, 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.