The impact of alcohol on the community in NSW has been highlighted by the NSW Alcohol Policy Alliance. The alliance wants a community defenders office to be established in order to tackle the impact of alcohol on the community and particularly to challenge liquor licence applications.
An alliance of medical and research groups claims that a community defender’s officer should be established under the liquor law so that residents, schools and hospitals can fight the surge of “unwanted” bars and bottle shops.
I recently came across an article on Smh.com.au which discussed the NSW Alcohol Policy Alliance’s suggestions including the development of a defender’s officer.
According to the group the number of active liquor licences in NSW has increased 13 per cent between 2008 and 2011. Councils across Sydney have been complaining that the community is excluded from the decision-making process and they do not have the resources to fight applications from rich companies.
The following excerpt from the article on Smh.com.au explains further:
The NSW Alcohol Policy Alliance, which includes the NSW Police Association, Australian Medical Association and hospital and surgeon groups, has called for a defender’s office to be funded through the introduction of annual licence fees for pubs and clubs.
A report to be released on Thursday at a forum at NSW Parliament has found the community impact statements lodged by liquor licence applicants are often misleading while spot checks by the regulator have revealed many pubs and hotels don’t tell communities – giving them no chance to object.
A community defender’s office would notify communities of a new licence application, help prepare affidavits and gather data needed to challenge a new licence under complex rules.
”NSW communities are demanding a say in liquor licensing decisions but are increasingly frustrated at being locked out by a process that is unfairly weighted in favour of the alcohol industry,” said Michael Thorn, chief executive of the Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education.
The Fairfield City Council explained that it is hard for the community to challenge a licence proposal because community members dont have the know-how and means to do so. At the moment it is being alleged that the current system is favouring the applicant and in most cases community members are’nt even aware of applications in most cases unless they happened to notice it on a notice board.
Community members have expressed their concern that more big bars will bring big drinking and more violence, noise and a disruption to the community – according to community member Kandy Tagg. The post goes on to explain:
Manly Council told the review ”the default position seems to be in favour of the applicant”. Councillor Cathy Griffin said the community impact statements submitted by liquor licence applicants were ”ridiculous”.
Applicants were only required to provide the location of nearby schools, churches and hospitals, not the views of these groups. The only way a community discovered an application had been lodged was if they happened to see an A4 piece of paper stuck on a building, she said.
Manly Council uses its planning powers to alert community groups if a development application for a new pub or restaurant is received. Any objections go to an independent panel. Cr Griffin said the NSW government should adopt the same approach for liquor licences.
Residents on Thursday took objections to a restaurant Justin Hemmes plans to open on the Manly wharf to an independent hearing. It ruled the project could proceed but must address noise and environmental concerns.