A licence must be obtained to sell alcohol

Anyone who wishes to sell or supply alcohol must apply for a licence to do so at the local council.

Licence applications must be publicly notified

A licence application must be publicly notified at the premises and either in the local paper or designated website. Check with your local council for their requirements. 

You will need to check the website or keep a watch out in the local newspapers or local area to be aware of licence applications.

Three agencies make inquiries into the application

Once an application is made, Council licensing inspectors, Public Health officers, and Police officers commence their investigations in relation to the application. Other agencies can also look into the application (e.g. Fire Service).

Police and Health must inquire into all off-licence and on-licence applications. There are different requirements for special licences. If the Police and/or Health authorities wish to oppose the application, they must send their report to the Licensing Committee within 15 working days after receiving the application file from the Council. 

The community can object to an application

You can make an objection to the application if you live in the vicinity of the premise or have a “greater interest” than the public generally. A person with ‘greater interest’ means you could be living or working in the same street as the proposed or existing premises, or you’re a member of a Board of Trustees of a school or Marae near it.

You can object to applications for both new and renewal of licences, and for all types of licences - on-licences, off-licences, club licences and special licences; but each objection may vary depending on the licence type.

Please note that your name and contact details are required to be provided in your objection. Your objection and contact details are given to the applicant. The applicant may seek to amend their application based on your objections (e.g reduce their trading hours) or they may use your objection to prepare a response at the public hearing.

You can also object to a licence as a community group.  Your objection letter can act as a petition, which gathers signatures from those persons who have an interest greater than the public generally. If you choose this method, it is important to include in the petition the name and address of a spokesperson or contact person, including an email address. Each objector in the petition must include their name and address clearly, as well as their signature.

Alternatively, you can create an objection letter template which you print off and distribute throughout the local community.

You have 15 working days to lodge an objection or petition for an on-licence or off-licence from the date of the first notification (this could be an online notice or date published in a local newspaper, whichever is first). There are different requirements for special licences – you will need to contact the Council to find out how long you have to make your objection.

Once the list of objectors is finalised and given to all three agencies, some applicants may invite objectors to a meeting to discuss their concerns. If you feel uncomfortable doing this, do not feel pressured to attend.

Although your details are not published, if you take part in the public hearing your details do become public record.

Objections can only relate to specified criteria

There are a range of criteria that are used in decisions relating to particular licence application. The criteria are

  • the object of the Act (the harm caused by the excessive or inappropriate consumption of alcohol should be minimised)
  • the suitability of the applicant
  • any relevant local alcohol policy
  • the days on which and the hours during which the applicant proposes to sell alcohol:
  • the design and layout of any proposed premises:
  • whether the applicant is engaged in, or proposes on the premises to engage in, the sale of goods other than alcohol, low-alcohol refreshments, non-alcoholic refreshments, and food, and if so, which goods:
  • whether the applicant is engaged in, or proposes on the premises to engage in, the provision of services other than those directly related to the sale of alcohol, low-alcohol refreshments, non-alcoholic refreshments, and food, and if so, which services:
  • whether (in its opinion) the amenity and good order of the locality would be likely to be reduced, to more than a minor extent, by the effects of the issue of the licence:
    • whether (in its opinion) the amenity and good order of the locality are already so badly affected by the effects of the issue of existing licences that—
    • they would be unlikely to be reduced further (or would be likely to be reduced further to only a minor extent) by the effects of the issue of the licence; but
    • it is nevertheless desirable not to issue any further licences: 
  • Many community members focus their objections on the trading hours, impact on amenity and good order, suitability of the applicant and object of the Act. But you can use any of the above criteria.  You must focus your objection in relation to the above criteria.

What is amenity and good order?

In relation to amenity and good order, the Act requires that the Licensing Committee must have regard to the following matters (as they relate to the locality):

  • current, and possible future, noise levels
  • current, and possible future, levels of nuisance and vandalism
  • the number of premises for which licences of the kind concerned are already held

Other considerations in relation to amenity and good order are:

  • the extent to which the following purposes are compatible:
  • the purposes for which land near the premises concerned is used:
  • (the purposes for which those premises will be used if the licence is issued.

If the application is for a licence renewal, the Licensing Committee must have regard to:

  • current, and possible future, noise levels
  • current, and possible future, levels of nuisance and vandalism.  

Objecting to the issue of a licence or seeking to have conditions included on the licence

It may be that you do not object to the granting of a licence, but object to the trading hours that are proposed. Or perhaps you would like some conditions attached to the licence. This is absolutely fine - make it clear in your objection letter that this is the case and what hours or conditions you would prefer.

Examples of conditions you might seek for an off-licence might include:

  • Persons in school uniform of the purchase age will not be served.
  • RTD’s will not be displayed at the principal entrance to the store or within three metres of the front windows.
  • External advertising of alcohol is limited to no more than 50% of the shop frontage window area.
  • Advertising will be limited to the trading name of the premises and two poster type displays on the shop frontage smaller than A1 size.
  • There will be no external free-standing advertising signs.
  • Alcohol will not be sold to persons with appearance of being window washers.

Examples of conditions for an on-licence might include:


Objections are processed by the local Council licensing inspector

Every objection should be acknowledged by writing. Email is usually the best form of communication. The inspector will assess your application and determine if you meet the criteria for having a “greater interest” than the public generally and that your objection relates to the specified criteria.

Community objections proceed to a public hearing

If you object, the District Licensing Committee will hold a public hearing. It is important that you attend this if you want to make your objection count.

The file of reports from the three agencies, together with community objections, is forwarded to the Hearings Advisor for the DLC.

The date, time and location of the hearing will be sent to you from the Hearings Team. They will inform you of the process and deadlines to submit further evidence (if you wish to present any).   

By law, the DLC must give at least 10 working days' notice of the public hearing to all parties. If your objection is in the form of a petition, they will contact the spokesperson. 

Hearing dates are publicly available leading up to the hearing date on the webpage of each Council.


Click below for a flowchart on the licensing process.

Flowchart on the licensing process