Researchers want Community Defender Office to help Fight Bars and Alcohol Shops

According to a group made up of medical and research groups established in NSW to review alcohol fuelled misconduct and its impact on communities, a community defender’s office is called for in order to protect residents and communities from alcohol fuelled problems stemming from “unwanted” bars and pubs in the area.

A community defender’s office should be established under the liquor law so that residents, schools and hospitals can fight a flood of unwanted bars and bottle shops, an alliance of medical and research groups claim.

According to an article on the number of active liquor licences in NSW increased by 13 per cent between 2008 and 2011. Councils across Sydney complain that the community is locked out of decision-making and does not have the resources to fight applications from companies with money and resources at their disposal.

The following excerpt from explains further:

AM-W-PUSH-20131019215523482340-620x349The 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.

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As one member of the community, Kandy Tagg explained, liquor licences arent the problem but the concern is that more big bars bring more drinking, more violence and noise and subsequently more disruption for the community.

The Fairfield City Council explained that it is extremely difficult for the community to challenge a licence proposal because they often dont have the means to do so and sometimes they arent even aware of the applications.

It is important that in areas where there is a high density of bars, pubs and licenced premises that Responsible service of alcohol regulations are strictly adhered to because often it is the only defence against the alcohol fuelled problems that communities are so fearful of.

The post on goes on to explain:

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.

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