Liquor licensing is rampant!

Earlier this week, Stuff published this article in the Southland Times about the Invercargill Licensing Trust’s new $40 million hotel development.

The reporter spoke with Linda Cooper in her capacity as president of the New Zealand Licensing Trust Association. Linda is president of the Waitākere Licensing Trust and ​also represents the Waitākere Ward on Auckland Council. Linda is currently chairperson of Auckland Council’s regulatory committee who make decisions about alcohol and gambling policies and bylaws in Auckland.

This is what Linda had to say:

Cooper says liquor licensing is rampant, pointing to South Auckland where alcohol outlets are popping up on almost every street corner.

Having an organisation like a licensing trust, which is held to account by its community, is good for social responsibility, Cooper says.

It’s not a direct quote; the reporter has paraphrased Linda’s words. But the picture that Linda has painted is clear. Licensing trust monopolies protect communities from what would otherwise be a poorly controlled environment where proliferation of bottle stores is “rampant”. She has also given the ever-popular example of South Auckland to ram home the message of what a licensing trust monopoly protects against.

I spend a decent amount of time in South Auckland and I haven’t noticed too many new bottle stores. Thankfully, the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA) publish a register of active alcohol licences so I decided to check and see how many new off-licenses were issued recently in South Auckland.

I filtered the register for Auckland; New Licenses; Off-licenses; Bottle stores / taverns / grocery stores / supermarkets. Then I went through and found the South Auckland ones (I excluded Franklin). Then I checked with Google StreetView to see which of them were genuinely new stores and not just a replacement of an existing store (e.g. a new owner/license but an existing store).

I found three. Since May 2017 – there are just three new bottle stores across all of South Auckland. South Auckland’s population has risen something like 6%, and there are just three new bottle stores. They are:

  1. Liquor Centre Golden Circle – 743 Great South Rd, Papatoetoe
  2. Blackbull Liquor Botany – 1 Bishop Dunn Pl, Flat Bush
  3. Manukau Super Liquor – 726 Great South Rd, Manukau

The ARLA data isn’t perfect and I wouldn’t be surprised if there are actually more than three. But it’s certainly not “rampant”, and there are certainly not stores popping up on every street corner.

Comments like these may serve Linda’s political purposes, but they undermine public confidence in the licensing system and they also reinforce negative stereotypes about South Auckland. It would be great to see Linda retract or clarify her comments.