Local alcohol policies

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The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allows local councils to develop local alcohol policies. A local alcohol policy (LAP) is a set of decisions made by a local authority in consultation with its community about the sale and supply of alcohol in its geographical area. Once a LAP is in place, licensing bodies must consider it when they make decisions about alcohol licensing applications.

LAPs are optional; local councils don't have to have one. If they want to, 2 or more local councils can develop a joint LAP.

What a LAP can cover

By having a LAP, communities can:

  • limit the location of licences in particular areas or near certain types of facilities such as in specific neighbourhoods or near schools or churches (this doesn't apply to special licences)
  • limit the density of licences by specifying whether new licences or types of licences should be issued in a particular area (this doesn't apply to special licences)
  • impose conditions on groups of licences, such as a 'one-way door' condition that would allow patrons to leave premises but not enter or re-enter after a certain time
  • restrict or extend the maximum opening hours set in the new Act.

A LAP can have different conditions for different areas within the council's district.

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The effect of a LAP

LAPs give local communities more input into licensing decisions. This means local outlets of national businesses (for example, supermarket chains) may have different opening hours or conditions depending on where they're located. For reasons of fairness, limits on the location and density of licences won't apply to businesses that were granted licences under the previous Act. However, those limits will apply to new licences issued for existing premises (for example, if a bar has a new owner who is applying for a licence).

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Developing a LAP

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).

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Appealing elements of a LAP

Only a person who made a submission on the draft LAP can appeal any element of the provisional policy. Police and Medical Officers of Health have statutory rights of appeal.

The appeal must be filed with the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority within 30 days of the public notification of the provisional policy.

The only ground for appealing an element of a provisional LAP is that it's unreasonable in light of the object of the Act. The Act’s object is that:

  • the sale, supply and consumption of alcohol should be undertaken safely and responsibly, and
  • the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised.

The provisional LAP can't come into effect until all appeals are resolved.

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Changing or reviewing a LAP

If a local council decides to change or replace its LAP, it must go through the same process it took to develop it. If it decides to revoke a LAP so that it no longer applies to the district, it must follow the special consultative procedure in the Local Government Act 2002 (external link) . A local council must also review its LAP every 6 years using the special consultative procedure in the Local Government Act 2002.

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