6 Dec 2011

Fierce opposition to supermarket liquor licence

9:43 pm on 6 December 2011

A Christchurch supermarket is facing stiff opposition to its application for a liquor licence - with one opponent saying the move would amount to drug-dealing.

The Liquor Licensing Authority sat in Christchurch on Tuesday as Blackburn Retail Holdings outlined its application to sell alcohol at its New World Supermarket in Ilam.

There are 14 objections, including from police and the National Addiction Centre.

The centre's director, Doug Sellman, says alcohol is the equivalent of a Class B drug and the licence should not be granted.

Professor Sellman attended the hearing and was able to object as he lives in the area. He says research shows alcohol is more harmful than the drug fantasy.

He says while the language may sound inflammatory, alcohol causes billions of dollars of social harm to New Zealand.

Professor Sellman says Ilam has a long history of alcohol problems, and making liquor more available would increase alcohol-related harm.

Ilam has several university halls of residence and Professor Sellman says supermarkets are primarily mega-liquor stores disguised as family-friendly grocery stores.

Sergeant Al Lawn, of the alcohol strategy and enforcement team, says police have opposed several such applications by supermarkets because they believe the shops are discounting alcohol heavily.

"Given that alcohol is a drug, given that it creates billions of dollars worth of problems in New Zealand, we don't think that is right.

"We don't think that they should be doing it and that it increases liquor abuse. Therefore, at some stage, you've got to say no."

An example was given to the Liquor Licensing Authority where alcohol was making just a 1% profit.

But the supermarket's parent company, Foodstuffs South Island, says that was just a one-off promotion.

Spokesperson Alan Malcolmson says it sells alcohol in a responsible way and adheres to all legal requirements.

"The training that we apply to our stores; we're not selling against the law. Alcohol is a legal product to sell, and I think we do it very responsibly."

The authority has reserved its decision.