A case study of community action against alcohol harm: liquor licensing in Fantame Street, Porirua, 2011-2013

Alcohol Community participation Community development Liquor licensing Alcohol harms Regulatory instruments New Zealand

This thesis is a case study of local community involvement in the liquor licencing process. Alcohol is a widely available commodity with the potential for harm to communities through short and long term health impacts, violence and crime. There is often tension between meeting community needs and those of the business, entertainment and recreation sectors. A large body of evidence links the reduced availability of alcohol with reduced harm. Liquor store placement is an aspect of alcohol availability that has generated strong public interest in New Zealand. The New Zealand Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 allows communities to object to liquor licences in their neighbourhood if they have concerns, and provides increased opportunities for community voices to be heard in the liquor licensing process.This case study covers the process around the licence for the liquor store in Fantame Street, Cannons Creek East, Porirua, New Zealand, during 2011 to 2013. In 2011 and before, members of the local community were concerned about harm resulting from the location and long trading hours of the liquor store in their vulnerable residential neighbourhood. Between 2011 and 2013 they objected to two liquor licence applications, with Liquor Licensing Authority hearings resulting in drastically reduced liquor store trading hours, and subsequent licence refusal. The aim of this study was to better understand the role of local community action in progressing population health issues, particularly alcohol issues. Key informant interview data, document analysis, and informal conversations formed the basis of data collection. Community action refers to 'collective action driven by a community to influence factors in the environment which determine a community's health'. In this case study, community action was enhanced by a strong local consensus regarding a visible problem. Opportunities for action arose through the liquor licensing process and the timing of law changes, which gave community voices more weight. A major key to successful action was a passionate and dedicated community leader, supported by church and school groups, as well as by the media and interested professionals. The community experienced the liquor licensing procedure as unfriendly, frustrating and difficult to engage in, due to it being a legal process. Multiple agencies provided the local community with information, legal support, and statistics to support their campaign. This enabled them to participate more effectively. In this study, community action was influential in the judge's decisions to shorten the liquor store hours and the later refusal to grant a liquor licence. These decisions reduced alcohol-related harm and increased community safety in the local area. They may also assist other communities through setting a precedent for residential liquor licensing in other vulnerable communities. In this community, working together, and getting their concerns heard, strengthened bonds and led to a greater sense of community spirit. The results of this study suggest that communities can, in some circumstances, be supported to take collective action. This can occur by the creation of more supportive environments for participation and action (e.g., law that better privileges community wishes) and by help in participating in the liquor licensing process. Supportive environments can be fostered by central and local government taking a global approach to alcohol harm, creating policies that consider the impact on health and inequalities of health, reducing the affordability and availability of alcohol, as well as fostering collaborative societies and local participation in decision making. In conclusion, facilitating community action is an essential part of broader efforts to tackle alcohol-related harm. It also has the potential to contribute to wider positive health outcomes, through increasing social capital and the capacity within the community to tackle further health concerns.

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