Auckland Council welcomes Supreme Court decision on local alcohol policy

Publish Date : 05 May 2023

The Supreme Court has today issued its decision dismissing appeals by supermarket companies on the council’s proposed local alcohol policy (PLAP).

The decision resolves some of the legal challenges to the PLAP, which began in 2015 when the new policy was first adopted.

“This has been a lengthy process spanning nearly eight years,” says Auckland Council’s Chief of Strategy Megan Tyler.

“It began with supermarket chains making submissions against various provisions to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA), followed by those companies seeking judicial review of the ARLA decision in the High Court, and appeals to the Court of Appeal and most recently the Supreme Court.

“While these appeals before the Supreme Court are now exhausted, this decision does not mean that the PLAP can immediately come into force. There are still a number of matters outstanding that will require resolution before ARLA, and we will now turn our attention to working through those,” she says.

The core argument from supermarket companies focussed on maximum trading hours (for the sale of alcohol), decision-making on where new off-licences might go and discretionary decisions on alcohol licences.

Auckland Council Regulatory and Safety Committee Chair Josephine Bartley welcomes the Supreme Court’s decision.

“At the heart of the council’s policy approach has been the reduction of alcohol harm in our communities.

“We welcome the resolution of this appeals process and the opportunity to get on with implementing our local alcohol policy – eight years has been a long time to wait.

“While the changes won’t happen overnight, we look forward to seeing alcohol suppliers reflect on the ways the policy will allow them to supply alcohol responsibly and where they can do their bit to mitigate the worst impacts of alcohol on their communities,” says Cr Bartley.


  1. The council developed the PLAP in accordance with the terms of Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act (SSAA) and adopted it in 2015.
  2. The purpose of a PLAP is, broadly speaking, to enable local authorities to customise specified elements of the liquor licensing regime, through a policy tool, to suit the needs and desires of their communities.
  3. As the SSAA allows, a number of parties who had made submissions on the PLAP appealed various provisions of the PLAP to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (ARLA). ARLA is a specialist tribunal tasked with hearing matters relating liquor licensing, including appeals on PLAPs.
  4. A PLAP cannot come into effect until all legal challenges to it have been resolved.
  5. ARLA released its substantive decision on the PLAP appeals on 19 July 2017. It rejected the majority of appeal points on elements of the PLAP.
  6. SSAA provides that there is no right of appeal from ARLA’s decision on a PLAP, however that does not preclude the ability to seek judicial review of the decision.
  7. The two major supermarket chains (Foodstuffs North Island Limited and Woolworths New Zealand Limited) sought judicial review of the ARLA decision on a number of grounds.
  8. The High Court heard the supermarket’s judicial review challenge to the ARLA decision in February 2019. Justice Duffy released her decision in February 2020.  Her decision was not favourable to the council, or to other councils looking to develop an LAP.
  9. Auckland Council considered that the High Court decision contained a number of errors of law and appealed it. Woolworths New Zealand Limited cross-appealed.
  10. The Court of Appeal hearing took place on 15-16 June 2021, with its decision being released on 24 September 2021.
  11. The supermarkets were granted leave to appeal to the Supreme Court.
  12. Today’s Supreme Court decision is the outcome of that appeal process.

A detailed summary of the court processes is outlined in the media release supplied by the Supreme Court.

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