Time is running out for the government to pass the Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Bill, say community and student groups.

The Bill, partway through its second reading, will remove the ability to appeal local alcohol policies (LAPs), make it easier for the public to object to an alcohol licence, and end the practice of cross examination in licensing hearings.

Communities Against Alcohol Harm say the current appeals process has cost councils and communities millions in legal costs as large alcohol retailers thwart the efforts of councils to protect their communities from alcohol harm. Meanwhile the alcohol licensing process is highly legalistic and alienating, with members of the community treated appallingly by legal representatives of the industry.

“This Bill needs to be passed now, under urgency,” said Communities Against Alcohol Harm volunteer and alcohol harm survivor Nathan Cowie. ‘I really hope our government doesn’t drop the ball on alcohol harm this time, but our communities have been let down so many times before, it’s hard not to get cynical.”

“Alcohol is our most harmful and acceptable drug, a huge driver of trauma, family harm, violence, injury, road deaths, family harm, chronic and acute health issues. It is addictive, it is ultra cheap, and it is heavily marketed, including to our children” he said.

Communities Against Alcohol Harm supports communities and groups affected by alcohol harm around Aotearoa New Zealand to navigate the highly legalistic and combative alcohol licensing processes to ensure their voices are heard loud and clear.

“Communities can have a stronger voice, but only if their voice is made strong,” said Communities Against Alcohol Harm lawyer Dr Liz Gordon. “The Community Participation Bill goes a way to strengthening our voices in the combative licensing arena. With only nine sitting days before Parliament rises for the election, there is a real risk this bill will not pass.”

“When the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 went through Parliament we were promised more than once that alcohol licences would be harder to get and easier to lose,” said Communities Against Alcohol Harm secretary Dr Grant Hewison. “They are neither. This Act has failed to achieve its object and purpose. The changes in the Community Participation Bill are modest but crucial if communities are going to participate in minimising alcohol harm.”

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“Communities Against Alcohol Harm are in full support of the call from Students for Sensible Drug Policy Ōtepoti-Dunedin and Hold On To Your Friends to pass the second reading of the Bill at the earliest opportunity – Tuesday 15 August 2023.”

“We further support their call to complete the third reading as soon as possible. Given the limited number of sitting days left before the election, we fully support government passing this Bill under urgency” Dr Hewison said.

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