Hospitality Business Magazine

Whangarei District Council most expensive licence fees in New Zealand

Whangarei marina and town basin, viewed from a heritage building by the waterfront. Northland, New Zealand, NZ.

Whangarei marina and town basin, viewed from a heritage building by the waterfront. Northland, New Zealand, NZ.

Hospitality New Zealand is concerned at skyrocketing liquor licencing fee increases for restaurant and bar owners that fall under the Whangarei District Council.

Hospitality New Zealand Northland Branch members met with the Whangarei Mayor Sheryl Mai in June this year to discuss their concerns about a 50% licensing fee increase, effective April this year. Another increase has been scheduled for July 2017 which could see licensees face a total increase of 87%.

“Our fees for an on/off licence for a 3-year period were $1632, including gst.  The new fees for the same 3-year period from 2016 will be $8104. From 2017 this rises to $9098”, says Vic Hill, owner of the Grand Hotel Whangarei.   “The government set default rates for licence fees in New Zealand, but the Council have made a bylaw to increase these to over 87% of that rate and we want to know why this is deemed necessary.”

“It is an extremely high increase to endure if it goes ahead and will result in operators either passing on the costs to customers or absorbing the costs themselves, which will impact on already limited profits. This could also affect employment and result in fewer staff being hired or a reduction in working hours”, he said.

“A number of venues in Whangarei have already shut their doors and the city is losing its vibrancy, which is pretty concerning given the expected influx of visitors for the Lions Tour next year”, he said.  “The last count by the Advocate newspaper quoted 40 to 50 empty businesses/shops in the CBD; these increases in licensing fees will likely add to that number”, Mr Hill said.

Hospitality New Zealand Northland Branch President, John Maurice: “Since the June meeting with the Mayor there has been no progress made with these discussions and it’s causing uncertainty for many in the sector. Businesses are already restricted in their trading with a blanket close time, as well as a one-way door from 1.00am, which has had a huge impact on trading.”

“We are disappointed the Council has not provided any additional information or come back to the sector for more discussion about the fee increases. We are really struggling to understand the rationale behind such big increases, when the rest of the country hasn’t done this”, he said.

Hospitality New Zealand has made a number of approaches to the Whangarei District Council since meeting with Mayor Mai in June, however no response has been received to date.