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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 39, Issue 3. 15th March [1976]

Beer Barons vs. the Trusts

page 3

Beer Barons vs. the Trusts

The National Government has swung in behind the breweries in their attempts to deny the Terawhiti Trust power to set up retail liquor outlets in the Karori/Kelburn area.

After struggling for three years to establish a bottle store in Karori, the Terawhiti Trust has been finally hampered within an inch of success by the Prime Minister. Mr Muldoon, refusing to approve the borrowing of finance.

The Terawhiti Trust is responsible for the Wellington West area which includes Karori, Wilton, Northland, Kelburn Highbury, Aro Valley, Kingston, Vogeltown, Red Rocks. Makara, and parts of Brooklyn. It covers one of the largest trust areas in New Zealand.

The struggles started at the 1972 election when Wellington West gained the required 60% vote (12 votes over 60%) to turn it from a dry to a wet area. As soon as it was announced, six Karori Baptists asked for a magisterial recount, which subsequently reduced the extra 12 votes to eight.

Next, the area could not legally be declared wet until 90 days after the final figures were known. During this time public meetings were called in Northland and Brooklyn to form a Wellington West Licensing Trust Committee.

Control Commission Sits

But the decision on what form the liquor outlets would take and where they would be located, lay with the Licensing Control Commission. It sat in May 1973 but because there was legislation before Parliament it could not do anything.

Six months later it sat again and because of strong advocacy from the breweries it authorised the building of two hotels as well as the three taverns that were proposed The breweries argued that there was a need for hotels because of the acute accomodation shortage in the area, whereas all the Trust wanted to do was to supply the immediate needs in the form of locally acceptable bottle stores and taverns.

But the people would still have to vot on who would operate these outlets, and this meant another long wait. In fact it was nine months before a suitable returning officer could be found, with the vote finally taking place on October 8, 1974.

The electorate at this stage firmly voted for Trust control. But, once again, as soon as the result was declared there was a call form the Western Park Tavern for a magisterial recount. They produced the required 50 people, who were prepared to testify to voting irregularities. But when the roll was checked by the Trust's solicitors, it was discovdered that seven of them did not live in the district.

Delays Carry On

The appeal was quashed but the delays carried on. It was three months before the Justice Department could set a date for the election of trustees. The original trust activists formed themselves into a group called Trust Action and put up six candidates, all of which were elected.

They had campaigned on the platform of building nothing but taverns and so after the final returns came through (September 1975) they were ready to go ahead with their plans. On the last day of Parliament the plans were officially signed and sealed when a bill was passed making the Tera whiti Trust into a district trust (rather than a suburban one) and thus making it independent of the Licensing Control Commission

Following this they quickly found premises in Karori on which to set up a bottle store, held a public meeting to discuss its siting, and called for objections.

There were four objections from the Karori Wine Shop, the Kelburn Wine Shop, the Wellington branch of the Hotel Association, and a group of Baptists. There was a notable absence of any individual objections by Karori residents.

Once the hearing was held and the objections overruled, it was simply a matter of raising the $23,000 needed to get the business on the road. Normally a loan could be raised with the authority of the Treasury, but on this occasion it seems that Muldoon had given the Treasury a prior warning about approving any Trust loans.

Muldoon Says No

So when the note came back from the Treasury, it contained a personal statement from Muldoon commenting that in view of pending legislation he 'did not consider it appropriate to approve the Terawhiti Trust borrowing money to establish it proposed liquor outlet in Karori.'

The National Party has a long history of thwarting the establishment of trusts, even if the people of an area have decided that they want one. It is apparent that they regard it as the first spasm of 'creeping socialism', and the antithesis of their totem 'private enterprise'. In fact former National Party leader Sid Holland suggested that the ballot paper should be worded, not simply 'for' or 'against' Trust Control as provided in the Act, but for 'private enterprise control' or for 'trust control'.

In the case of the Terawhiti Trust, the people in the area voted three times on the trust issue, and each time wholeheartedly supported the establishment of trust liquor outlets in their area. So, why did Muldoon ove against it? If you were watching the papers at the end of February, you might also ask why Minister of Works Bill Young, was trying to deny the trusts a position in the Huntly area.

Photo of Sir Henry Kelliher being knighted by Queen Elizabeth II

Big brewery business is an integral part of New Zealand's establishment: leading brewery personalities have long been candidates for the accolade. Here Sir Henry Kelliher. Managing Director of Dominion Breweries, is knighted by Her Majesty the Queen during a visit to New Zealand in the early 1960s.

If you look behind many of these actions you will see the sinister forms of the breweries lurking somewhere in the shadows. The breweries spend about $1000 a year on public realtions and most of this goes towards lobbying among the media and the parliamentarians. In fact, Jim Thompson, chairman of the Liquor Industry Council, is working full-time trying to win favours for the breweries amongst the ranks of the politicians.

Labour Just as Bad

Even under the Labour Government this was fairly evident. The Royal commission on the Sale of Liquor, which presented its report last year, failed to investigate the finances and internal workings of the breweries, which is crucial to understand the full liquor story. The brief they had been given did not include this, and so their final report was virtually meaningless (much to the delight of the politicians and the beer barons).

It seems that in the Terawhiti Trust case that breweries' pressure is again evident. Liquor industry sources tell us that Thompson has been pushing Muldoon and other Cabinet members to bring in legislation that would stop trusts from being able to operate retail liquor outlets, such as a suburban bottle store.

But what can we expect from the future? I believe their will be a general toughening up on the trusts, even though the majority of people may want one in a particular area. Nothing realistic can be done about the breweries, as regulations and Royal Commissions have a habit of being circumvented because through political influence.

As for the Terawhiti Trust, unless they receive a $23,000 gift from some rich benefactor, things look pretty grim. They may be given a few token gifts, such as a conditional right to set up a tavern or two but control, once again, will pass from the local level body to central government and into the hands of the breweries.