6 October 2021
Media: Rotorua Daily Post
Topic: Rotorua off-licenses
I am doing a story about the number of off-license sites in Rotorua.
According to your information, there are currently 58 off-license alcohol premises in the Rotorua area, and 39 are in places where the deprivation index is eight or higher.
Only 3 are below 6 in the index.
- Fordlands Community Centre said they tried to petition the store on Ford Rd but weren't successful as well as one a while ago on Sunset Rd.
- She said people from deprived communities were told to "empower" themselves. "But when we do actually empower ourselves and speak out against injustice, nothing happens. It feels pointless."
- She said they had been asking the council for a new community centre to help give people somewhere to work towards bettering themselves and have hope.
- She said the area has been neglected for 50 years which made them more vulnerable to the stores right there. (four total off-license to buy alcohol in the vicinity
- Another questioned the motives of granting off-licenses in vulnerable communities."In my view, we say we care about vulnerable families but our actions say otherwise".
- Another said homelessness needed to be addressed as "When there is a lack of consideration for ensuring people's well-being and health and safety, increased numbers of places selling alcohol becomes a problem."
- "When you have this many liquor stores in one region the matter is only compounded."
- Salvation Army said financial hardship, food insecurity, family violence and other drug addictions are directly interlinked with alcohol.
- She said "Our whānau in low socio-economic communities are already predisposed to these challenges and the excessive availability of alcohol perpetuates these challenges for them."
- Why has the council allowed this many alcohol off-licenses to be established in Rotorua?
- Was council aware that this proportion of off-licenses granted were in such high deprivation areas?
- Why are off-licenses allowed so close together?
- What is council's response to the above?
- Does the council care about the vulnerable communities? If so, why are so many sites able to operate in such high deprivation areas?
- What are the motives for granting an off-license? How much does council make and what happens to the money?
- Does council acknowledge the harm caused by alcohol in deprived communities?
- What is council going to do about the issue?
We explained to the reporter that:
- Councils are not the decision-makers with regards to liquor licensing.
- These decisions are made by District Licensing Committees (DLCs) which are independent.
- Councils have roles as administrators and inspectors but the decisions on liquor licensing applications are made by DLCs and considerations for decision-making are set out in the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (2012).
Council linked the reporter with the chair of the Rotorua DLC who explained the licensing process, what the DLC can and can’t control under the current legislation, and what they must take into consideration in their decision-making.
Council also provided the following comment and information in response to the reporter’s questions and comments from the people in Fordlands to whom she spoke:
From Director Thriving Communities, Rosemary Viskovic:
As part of its 2021-31 Long-term Plan (LTP), Council has committed to four locality plans across Rotorua city – covering east, west, Ngongotaha and the central city/CBD.
Fordlands will be part of the western locality plan and although this is still in the very early stages at present, council staff are already engaging with representatives of the Fordlands community. We will be engaging with the wider community as this work progresses and Central Government agencies will also be involved.
Locality plans aim to create connected, thriving communities that promote wellbeing and social cohesion and these take into consideration all aspects of wellbeing for residents, including community safety and resilience, the environment, housing, infrastructure and facilities.
Our first locality plan, the Eastside Wellness Plan, is already well progressed and work on the Ngongotaha plan is scheduled to begin later in the first three years of the LTP.
We look forward to working with the Fordlands community as part of the Western locality plan.
Re what happens to licensing fees: A small portion of the cost of liquor licenses goes to the national Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority and the rest covers the cost of the administrative and inspection services that councils are required to provide to support District Licensing Committees.
Media: Local Democracy Reporter
Topic: Council meetings temporarily closed to public
I have some views from people on the decision to temporarily close the council chamber to the public for council and committee meetings.
Cr Merepeka Raukawa-Tait:
I understand the need to be vigilant and to keep strictly to social distancing guidelines, but as we rarely have more than two or three members of the public present at our meetings I would not have banned the public from attending our meetings at Level 2. Perhaps suggest if they come along that we are livestreaming, but they are welcome to come in. Especially as we are making an exception for members of the press. I think we can make any necessary changes at this time when we have council meetings. It is better to try to be accommodating and inclusive rather than exclusive. Otherwise [it] sends the wrong signal.
Cr Peter Bentley
I certainly don’t agree with this super conservative approach.
Cr Reynold Macpherson:
Given Council’s uneven record on transparency, it will excite cynicism if the public are locked out and can only watch vie live streaming, while elected members attend in person. If the safety justification is sound then the same rules should apply to elected members and their constituents.
Member of the public, regular council attendee Justin Adams:
Adams called the approach "overzealous" and "completely unnecessary".
"It's not in the spirit of democracy.
"There are no cases in Rotorua. It's a huge overkill. It just smells wrong."
He said the experience of viewing a council meeting via livestream was "totally different".
"There's a higher level of accountability when the people whose lives you're affecting are sitting right in front of you."
From Deputy Mayor Dave Donaldson (in mayor's absence):
It’s an operational decision of the CE, who is taking a cautious approach, and it won’t limit people’s access to meetings which council has been livestreaming for several years now with recordings also available afterwards.