About alcohol licensing

If you own, operate or manage a business or venue where alcohol will be sold or supplied, you need to be familiar with the laws and regulations that apply to alcohol. You must ensure that you have the correct licence and a host responsibility programme in place to care for your patrons.

If you want to sell alcohol to the public then you will need an alcohol licence.

If you plan to charge for alcohol or for entry to an event that includes alcohol you will need a Special Licence.

If you are having a private event or function, such as a wedding or an exhibition opening (i.e. not open to or advertised to the public) and you will be providing alcohol to your guests, as long as there is no charge for either the alcohol or for attending the event or function, then you do not need an alcohol licence.

Changes to the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol (Community Participation) Amendment Act 2023 (the Amendment Act) makes it easier for communities to have a say in alcohol regulation in their area, by making targeted changes to the alcohol licensing process in the Act.

Changes from 31 August 2023 include:

  • enable district licensing committees (DLCs) and ARLA to decline to renew a licence if the licence would be inconsistent with conditions on location or licence density in the relevant LAP, 
  • allows any person to object to licence applications, whether as an individual or a representative of a group or an organisation, with narrow exceptions for trade competitors and their surrogates, and
  • the time for objectors to make an objection to an application has been extended from 15 to 25 working days. Working days are weekdays, excluding public holidays, and excluding 20 December – 15 January. Mondays where a public holiday falls on a weekend and is ‘Mondayised’ are also excluded – for example, Waitangi Day or ANZAC Day.


This may mean applicants for premises related licences or for larger special licences may wish to build in a bit more time for the application process, especially where the applicant is purchasing a new or existing licensed premises (or requiring a Temporary Authority to trade). As noted above the period from 20 December through to 15 January are non-working days and these too will be added to the 25-working day period provided to make public objections (i.e. in total during that Christmas and New Year period about 10 weeks of non-working days).

There are more changes to come beginning 30 May 2024. Although these changes mostly impact on matters that go to a hearing and will make it easier and more comfortable for people attending those hearings.

If you have questions or concerns contact the environmental health team or the chief alcohol licensing inspector, Steve Turfrey 027 213 9460.

Type of alcohol licences


Allows the sale and supply of alcohol to be consumed at the specified premises (e.g. restaurants and bars)


Allows the sale and delivery of alcohol to be consumed away from the specified premises and the supply of complimentary samples to be consumed on the specified premises (e.g. bottle stores and supermarkets)

Club licence

Allows a club to sell alcohol to be consumed at the specified licensed premises to its club members and guests (e.g. sports clubs)

Special licence

Allows the sale and supply of alcohol to anyone attending an event, private function, street party, sporting event or show. Special licences can be either ‘on-site’ for consumption on the premises, or ‘off-site’ for consumption elsewhere.

  • An on-licence, off-licence or club licence is granted initially for one year and then can be renewed every three years. Special licences are granted per event or for a series of events.

Who can hold a licence?

Licence holders must be aged 20 years or over and meet the requirements of the Act. A licence is issued to a person, company or legal entity in relation to a premises (or conveyance, such as a train or boat). A licence cannot be transferred from one person to another or from one premises or conveyance to another.

Manager's Certificates

Every holder of an on-licence, off-licence or a club licence (and in some circumstances, a special licence) must appoint a certified manager.

Under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012, you must be 20 years or older to be a manager and must hold the prescribed qualification (which currently is a Licence Controllers Qualification, LCQ), which covers knowledge of the Act and host responsibility requirements. You must also have current experience in the industry of at least three to six months.

Temporary Authority

A bridging licence is known as a temporary authority and it allows a new owner of the business which has an existing licence to continue the sale and supply of alcohol with the same hours and conditions, for a three month period while applying for their own licence. A temporary authority must be applied for before taking over the business.

How to object to an alcohol licence

You can only object to a licence being granted or renewed if you're deemed to have a ‘greater interest’ than the general public. For example, if you live in the same street as the licensed premises.

Someone who is concerned about the effects of alcohol on the community but lives in a different area may not meet the greater interest criteria.

Licensing Fees

View the fee system for alcohol licensing

Issuing licences, monitoring compliance and enforcing action when necessary creates costs for local councils, which administer much of the licensing system.

Under the Act, licensed premises are required to pay application, renewal and annual fees. The annual fees are payable on the anniversary date of the licence every year.

Please note: You are strongly advised to obtain a Town Planning and Building Certificate of Compliance before applying for an alcohol licence. If your proposal does not meet the requirements of the Resource Management Act or building code a Certificate will not be granted. This Certificate is a prerequisite to an application for alcohol licence.