West Auckland Licensing Trust Action Group (WALTAG) has failed in its bid to force a poll on the monopoly in the sale of liquor in off license premises and taverns in Trust controlled parts of West Auckland.
WALTAG volunteers spent several years collecting over 38,000 signatures for their petition to the Waitākere Licensing Trust. The scrutineer found that it was 934 short of the 16,910 required to trigger a referendum. Insufficient signatures could be matched with the electoral roll.
While such a huge discrepancy seems unlikely, contributing factors included: People who shop in the licensing area but don’t live there, so not qualifying as they are not on the relevant electoral roll, duplicate signatures, incomplete details, and illegible signatures.
WALTAG can’t just find the extra signatures needed, they would need to start again with a whole new petition. “We accept it, but it is a surprise, and we wouldn’t have handed it in if we had not been confident,” said WALTAG spokesman, Nick Smale.
Linda Cooper, President of the Waitākere Licensing Trust, says despite the shortfall in petition signatures the Trusts have taken on board feedback from this sector of the community.
“We want to acknowledge the hard work undertaken by the petition organisers over recent years and the passion they have shown for their community.”
Allan Pollard, who became the trust chief executive less than two years ago, said about the petition “It was a strong effort, that has to be recognised.” Regarding the future direction of the Trusts, he said “We know we have got work to do.”
The Trusts still enjoy significant community support and there is concern that losing their monopoly would result in less support for community organisations. There is also the worry about proliferation of liquor stores if The Trusts were to change their status.
Allan is the new face of The Trusts and is steering the organisation in a changed direction. Part of that is the hybrid model where four stores are being converted to Liquorland franchises, while still being operated by The Trusts. These stores will carry the same product range at the same prices as other Liquorland stores. This is one of the initiatives being introduced to modernise The Trusts.
At the last election, two WALTAG representatives were elected onto Trust boards. Under their OIA requests, more information has become public leading to greater transparency from The Trusts than ever before. If WALTAG was to start a new petition now, it would be from a weaker position than several years ago as the Trusts have moved to address some of the issues that WALTAG campaigned on previously.