Community & Environment

Hamilton throws support behind alcohol bill

Image of the front entrance to the Hamilton City Council Municipal Building

Hamilton has joined other councils in supporting a law change to reduce alcohol-related harm in the community.

Hamilton City Council Elected Members today voted unanimously to support Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick’s private members bill which aims to put more controls around the sale of liquor. Whanganui, Christchurch and Auckland councils have already indicated their support.

If successful, the law change would remove the ability for large companies to appeal local alcohol policies, focus on reducing young people’s exposure to alcohol advertising, and remove the link between sport and alcohol.

Hamilton Mayor Paula Southgate said Hamilton’s Councillors wanted to see the power back in the hands of councils and their communities to decide how best to manage liquor sales.

“The intention of local alcohol policies was to give our communities a say in how and where alcohol was sold. But this was made impossible by the lengthy and costly appeal process that large profit-driven companies were very happy to drive,” she said.

“This is around a rebalance of power and putting communities’ interests first.”

Southgate commended Councillor Sarah Thomson’s efforts to lead the issue, noting Councillors had delegated responsibility to Thomson to further advocate to central government in support of the proposed bill.

Staff were also asked to identify existing research relating to alcohol-related harm, identify any gaps and report back to Council to inform the development of a Local Alcohol Policy.

Hamilton City Council last proposed a provisional Local Alcohol Policy in 2017 which received three appeals. After negotiations failed to resolve the issues, Council abandoned its Policy after spending more than $200,000 of staff and legal time.

Southgate said Council has a history of raising concerns about the appeals process, including cost, time delay and the undermining of community confidence.

“Hamilton has made its views and concerns well known and I’m happy we are fighting for far more community control when it comes to alcohol.”

The item was supported by speakers in public forum including Local Medical Officer of Health Dr Richard Hoskings, Executive Director of the Alcohol Healthwatch Dr Nicki Jackson and Green Party MP Chlöe Swarbrick who spoke via video link.

Currently Swarbrick’s proposed Private Members Bill – Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Harm Minimisation) Amendment Bill is waiting to be drawn through the ballot process. However, if 61 or more non-executive members indicate support, the Bill will be introduced without needing to go through the ballot.

If the Bill is successful in being introduced to Parliament, Council would have an opportunity to submit through the Select Committee process.

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