Silverstream: DLA listens to schools opposition to Off-licence

An off-licence liquor store proposed for Fergusson Dr, directly opposite St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, would shut its doors at school finishing time, a Liquor Licensing Authority hearing in Upper Hutt has been told.

On all school days the “stand alone” business would close for the hour between 2.45pm and 3.45pm, the applicant, Bhavna Patel, told a recent licensing hearing at the Upper Hutt District Court.

“The store will be closed when school is finished,” Mrs Patel said in her formal address to the one-day commission of inquiry.

“That’s a good way of preventing children from accessing the store,” she said.

An authority decision on whether an off-licence at 206 Fergusson Dr will be allowed to begin trading is expected mid-October, after Judge Bill Unwin formally reserved his decision.

Public advertising of the proposed off-licence attracted more than 130 submissions in opposition, including nearby schools St Patrick’s Silverstream College and Silverstream Primary School.

Several community-based objectors detailed their opposition, collectively arguing against the suitability of the proposed business and questioning Mrs Patel.

Many of the issues in opposition were heard in detail, but may not be relevant to a decision which will made strictly under the Sale of Liquor Act.

Opening the application by Patel Holdings Ltd for a “stand alone bottle store,” counsel Jonathan Scragg commented on the high number of objections.

But he also clearly drew attention to the fact there was “no opposition by the New Zealand Police, by the District Licensing Authority and the Regional Medical Officer of Health”.

The submissions “appear primarily to be from the local community, including schools”, Mr Scragg noted.
A seven-days-a-week convenience store is now operating at the Fergusson Dr location.

If the liquor licence is granted, Mrs Patel told the hearing that business would cease and the building used solely as an off-licence.

It would open seven days, from 9am to 9pm Sunday to Thursday, and 9am to 10pm on Friday and Saturday (with the afternoon closure).

The proposed off-licence’s “fit” with the Silverstream suburban community, where a 24-hour alcohol ban operates, was a constant point in opposition.

>via By COLIN WILLIAMS – Upper Hutt Leader

This issue was one my own family had discussed, and I personally consulted the District Licensing Authority run by the Upper Hutt City Council, when this first arose. The issue given the number of objections had been forwarded to the Liquor Licensing Authority (LLA), and this is where we are at yesterday, decision due mid October.

Unfortunately under current legislation in NZ, the LLA can only consider applications based upon the context of the Liquor Act. Mrs Patel is doing no wrong under this act, and as such has made a consideration for her licence application by closing her shop doors in the period raised by objectors, something she did not have to do, but no doubt to appease those greatly concerned.

The Judge while reserving his decision is faced with the context of the law, and while aware of objections I believe will have no other position available than to grant the application with provisos of the applicant, that is closing in the period she mentioned. He has a number of discretionary conditions he can put on the application as well. The Police and other agencies are also tied by the fact that the applicant is doing no wrong in applying and not breaking any rules, just applying for a commercial licence to sell liquor as is allowed in NZ.
The fault lies with current legislation that does not take into consideration public concerns around liquor distribution,and the current backlash against liquor outlets that has increased in recent times. New legislation is before Parliament in May next year I think, to change the context of the act, but that could take several months knowing legalisation.

So rightfully the Judge has reserved his decision, to get a feel for the lie of the land, consult precedents in the act, but sorry even though I think this should not go ahead from a personal perspective cannot see how the licence will not be granted.

Take heed that the Police are actively managing bad outlets to combat problems in this area, strongly in the Hutt Valley. If you are caught selling to underaged or other infringements under the act it is highly unlikely your licence will not be renewed. Unfortunately current crap legislation opened the gate to the growth of suburban liquor outlets, without input from the community. We were suppose to be a mature nation around liquor consumption.

Until such time as Mrs Patel makes an error under the act, she has a legal and valid reason to open an outlet no matter how many objections.

In conclusion I’m glad I’m not the Judge, precedents are always allowed to be queried, he will be looking around the rest of the country for some way to satisfy objectors while not breaking what is the context of the act, free enterprise in the right to sell liquor.

I like many in Silverstream await the judgement.

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