BusinessMay 5, 2018

Why we’re fighting for a vote on The Trusts’ West Auckland alcohol monopoly


It’s a monopoly that brings in more than $100 million a year revenue, intended to benefit the community. So why are West Auckland residents agitating to get rid of it?

We’ve been hearing a lot about The Trusts lately.

They’re a big business operating in West Auckland; between them the Portage Licensing Trust and the Waitakere Licensing Trust (known collectively as The Trusts) are turning over $110 million per year collectively.

For the financial year ending March 2017, The Trusts had profits of $5m and they were sitting on over $18m in cash and investments. Valuing their substantial commercial property portfolio using the latest council valuations, the Waitakere Licensing Trust has $41m in property assets and the Portage Licensing Trust has $29m in property assets – combined that’s more than $70m.

However, a recent Facebook poll revealed 75% of the more than 2500 respondents supported a referendum on The Trusts. Why? Because there’s a growing discontent among West Aucklanders about the impact of The Trusts’ monopoly, and the inevitable impact that a monopoly has on West Auckland. For many people, The Trusts no longer meet the needs of the community that they are supposed to serve.

The Trusts’ outlet in Avondale, The Taphouse. (Screengrab)

A group of West Aucklanders (including myself) have come together to petition The Trusts to hold a vote at the next local body elections in 2019, on whether or not to maintain The Trusts’ monopoly status.

Our group, West Auckland Licensing Trusts Action Group (WALTAG), expects the petition to go live in August 2018 and run for three months. The group’s purpose (other than the petition) is educating people about The Trusts, and what the removal of The Trusts’ monopoly would mean for West Auckland.  

Removing the monopoly rights of The Trusts will not remove The Trusts from West Auckland, but it would mean that other people and businesses would sell and supply alcohol (subject to council policies).  

It would encourage more hospitality businesses to open in West Auckland – and ultimately create more jobs. The Trusts could still exist and give back to the community using their considerable asset base (and cash reserves) as a source of revenue. They could even continue to operate their bars and restaurants in a competitive environment.  

The Birkenhead Licensing Trust is a good example of a trust that no longer has a monopoly over alcohol (relinquishing that status in 2002 after a public vote) but continues to give back to the community.  

The Good Home on Lincoln Rd is The Trusts’ newest venue. (Screengrab)

Because licensing trusts were established for a community’s benefit, the community can decide the fate of licensing trusts.

Under sections 349 and 356 of the Sale and Supply of Liquor Act 2012, it is possible to remove the monopoly rights given to The Trusts. A petition signed by at least 15% of voters who live in the trust’s district is needed in order to force a poll. On polling day, if 50% or more electors vote to change the status quo, then the monopoly provisions given to The Trusts would be removed – if less than 50% of electors vote for change, The Trusts maintain their monopoly.

It has been 15 years since the last vote on The Trusts. Last time, The Trusts retained their monopoly status, getting 58% of the vote. Since then, West Auckland has experienced massive change. There are more young people buying their first homes in West Auckland, and the population is expected to increase dramatically over the next 20 years. With all these changes occurring, many people have queried whether it is appropriate that The Trusts continue to operate a monopoly over West Auckland.

The Trusts’ two entities cover almost all of West Auckland including Avondale, New Lynn, Titirangi, Piha, Te Atatū, Henderson, Glen Eden, Massey and up to the boundary of Kumeu.  

If you’re interested in finding more about the petition, or want updates on the campaign, or even want to give a helping hand, then sign up to the WALTAG Facebook page.

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