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Police objecting to bowling clubs´ liquor licensing applications

Report from RNZ
Bowling clubs across Wellington are confused about an objection by police to the renewal of their liquor licences. Up to 12 community bowling clubs applied to renew their licences recently, and all have been objected to.

Bowls Wellington chairman Mark O’Connor, who is also the president of the Whitby Bowling Club, said it was bizarre.

“It is out of the blue… The only communication we’ve had is from the council which advises us that the police have objected to the renewal of our licence on the grounds of hours of operation.

“But, it seems to be that it is a blanket opposition to a number of bowling clubs and I now believe also a tennis and squash club in the city centre.”

The “blanket opposition” was the issue as the clubs had all applied for different hours depending on what was required, Mr O’Connor said.

“If they have an issue with individual clubs and their licences they should be approaching those clubs and talking to those clubs.”

“Some clubs have asked for extended licences – from early morning to late night – others have asked from 11am to 7pm. Bowling clubs need to have that flexibility because they may have a tournament on a Monday once every three weeks or they – having set hours is not conducive to the sport of bowls.”

He said another reason police were opposed was because the hours applied for were already “busy times” for them, however he said police were never called out to bowling clubs.

“I’ve been involved with the clubs for six years and certainly in that time there has be no call-outs by police or any major issues.”

New Zealand Alcohol Beverages Council chief executive Nick Leggett said the opposition was “heavy-handed”.

Community groups, like bowling clubs, needed to sell alcohol as a way to stay open and were an important facility, particularly for older people, he said.

“I was horrified actually. They provide a great place for people to get together and play sport and also provide social interaction.”

“The idea that you can go somewhere pretty close to home, have a bowl, have a couple of drinks, I think that’s something that most Kiwi’s would say ‘yea that’s a good thing and we should do what we can to keep that going’. Yet the police have this very heavy-handed approach and they think they know best.”

Mr Leggett said direction from police minister Stuart Nash was warranted.

“This is the sort of thing that needs to be knocked on the head sooner rather than later. It’s an unnecessary stress for clubs which are mostly run by volunteers who don’t have the time or the inclination to jump through bureaucratic hoops.”

“The police is a respected organisation and to put this pressure on worthy community groups, it’s not really very becoming of them.”

But police said they were not opposed to a liquor license, but wanted to seek clarification about the hours clubs had applied for.

Senior sergeant Scott Dunn said in some cases applicants were applying to serve alcohol from 8am through to 1am the following day, seven days a week.

“We like to know why the requester wants a licence that spans more hours than many other outlets.”

He said police worked with liquor licensing inspectors and medical officers to try and reduce alcohol-related harm.

“All too often it’s police and health workers who bear the brunt of the ugly side of alcohol. Police support the safe, responsible and lawful sale and supply of alcohol and by no means are we seeking ‘dry’ clubs.”

Mr O’Connor said Bowls Wellington would be meeting police on 30 July to discuss the issues.