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This manual is intended to assist District Licensing Committee secretariats and reporting agencies (Police, Medical Officers of Health and territorial authority Alcohol Licensing Inspectors) with the process of receiving and determining club licence applications under the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act). 

It is intended to supplement existing guidance and provide practical assistance. It is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. While this manual sets out general guidance, practices may vary between regions. This advice covers new applications, renewals and variations for club licences. It does not relate to on-licences, special licences or off-licences.


The information contained in this online guide is intended as a general guide.
While reasonable measures have been taken to ensure that the information is current and accurate as at October 2018, the Health Promotion Agency cannot accept any liability for any inaccuracy, omission or deficiency in relation to the information. It is not legal advice and you should not rely on anything contained in this guide in any legal proceedings. The information provided does not replace or alter the laws of New Zealand, and you should consult the legislation and obtain your own legal and professional advice, as appropriate. The Health Promotion Agency will not accept liability for any action taken in reliance on anything contained in this online guide.

About club licences

A club licence allows the licensee to sell and supply alcohol to authorised customers for consumption there.

A club licence may be held by a body that:

  1. is a body corporate having as its object (or as one of its objects) participating in or promoting a sport or other recreational activity, otherwise than for gain
  2. is a body corporate whose object is not (or none of whose objects is) gain
  3. holds a permanent club charter.

The Act is clear that only members and their guests may be served alcohol (s.60). Authorised customers DO NOT include the general public.

Authorised customers include:

  • club members
  • guests of club members (guests must be accompanied by the sponsoring member at all times and must leave the premises when the member leaves)
  • members of clubs with reciprocal visiting rights (these clubs should each be named within the club’s rules or constitution).

A member, in relation to a club, is a person who:

  • has expressly agreed in writing to comply with the club rules
  • is recognised as a member of the club by those rules.

In order to comply with the legislation, bar staff must sight a current membership card or an affiliate’s current membership card before serving alcohol. All guests (non-members) must produce a completed sign-in slip and be accompanied by their sponsoring member at all times.

The holder of a club licence must take all practicable steps to ensure that:

  1. at all times there is a secretary of the club
  2. within 10 working days of the appointment of a new secretary, the secretary of the appropriate licensing committee is told the name of the new secretary
  3. all proceeds from the sale of alcohol belong to the club (s.61).

Every holder of a club licence must appoint a manager. A manager is responsible for compliance with and enforcement of the provisions of the Act and the conditions of the licence. The manager is also responsible for the conduct of the premises with the aim of contributing to the reduction of alcohol-related harm.

While the Act states that a manager does not need to be on duty at all times, it is strongly recommended that there are measures in place to actively manage the premises at any time the club is operating.

Application process

In brief:

  • Completed applications, in the prescribed form, are sent to the relevant District Licensing Committee for processing.
  • Enquiries are made into each application by the Licensing Inspector, Police and Medical Officer of Health (or the Ministry of Health's s.151 delegate). The Police and the Medical Officer of Health must enquire into every application but must only submit a report to the District Licensing Committee if they have any opposition.
  • The Licensing Inspector must enquire into, and file a report with the District Licensing Committee on, every application. Typically the Inspector collates the reports from each agency (where applicable) and submits a report to the District Licensing Committee providing an assessment of the application criteria and a summary of the views of the Police and the Medical Officer of Health.
  • The District Licensing Committee makes a determination, which could be on the papers or at a public hearing. This can be appealed to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority, and subsequently to the High Court.

Download the alcohol licensing flowchart (image file)

Police, Medical Officers of Health (and their delegates), and Licensing Inspectors should all be familiar with s.105 and 106. These criteria provide the basis on which a licence is granted and signal to applicants and regulatory agencies the types of issues being addressed through licence enquiries.

When writing any report, making any decision, and writing any decision, District Licensing Committees and reporting agencies involved in the administration of the Act must ask themselves the following four questions:

  1. Is my report, proposed action, proposed decision for the benefit of the community as a whole (that is the community that will be affected by the application) – in accordance with s.3(1)?
  2. Will it help to achieve the safe and responsible sale, supply, and consumption of alcohol – in accordance with sections 3(1)(b) and 3(2)(b) and 4(1)(a)?
  3. Will it help to achieve the minimisation of alcohol-related harm – in accordance with sections 3(1)(b) and 3(2)(b) and 4(1)(b)?  [alcohol-related harm is defined in s.5 and is the same as s.4(2)(a) and (b)]
  4. Is it reasonable? In accordance with s.3(2)(a)?

The answers must all be affirmative as the Act must be administered consistently with its purpose and object.

Download and read RS Dhillon Limited before the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority (PDF file).

This was the first ARLA case that considered s.105.  Although it was an application for an off-licence, the Authority guidance in paragraphs [28]-[54] apply generally to on-licence and club licence applications as well.

The application

The form of application is prescribed in the Regulations: Form 5 – Application for club licence or renewal of club licence.

At a local level, territorial authorities may add extra requirements for the applicant eg, additional Host Responsibility questions.

On receiving an application for licence, there is an initial check for completeness before the details are entered into a document management system.

Club licence applications checklist (new applications and renewals)

  • A signed application form. This form should be signed by the applicant or on behalf of the applicant, by an authorised person such as the club secretary.
  • The prescribed fee.
  • Prescribed information about the applicant, premises, managers, club details and conditions (see Form 5), including evidence that the applicant can hold a licence to sell alcohol under the Act.
  • A floor plan of the premises clearly showing the area to be licensed, the principal entrance, and any area to be designated as a supervised or restricted area.
  • A statement regarding compliance with fire safety standards.
  • A Resource Management Act (RMA) certificate and a building code certificate.
  • For a body corporate applicant, copy of certificate of incorporation (or equivalent document).
  • Names of other clubs with which club has reciprocal visiting rights for members.
  • Other relevant information that may be asked for, depending on the territorial authority (to assist in assessing relevant s105 criteria):
    • Details of relevant experience of applicant/directors etc
    • Alcohol management plan or host responsibility policy and host responsibility implementation policy/plan.
    • CPTED checklist.
    • Proposed employee training manuals/logs/induction/terms of employment policies.
    • Noise management plan.
    • Plan for managing any outside areas.
    • Details of other beverages apart from alcohol eg, non-alcoholic, low alcohol.
    • Food menu.
    • Photos/artist impressions of the premises.
    • A scale plan showing the design and layout.
    • Map of the location.
    • Detail of any other on-premises activity eg, karaoke, gaming machines.
    • Statement dealing with the impact or otherwise on the amenity and good order of the locality.

Who does this?

It is the role of the Secretary of the District Licensing Committee to ensure that the application is complete before it is sent out to the Police, Licensing Inspector and Medical Officer of Health. In some locations this task may be delegated in writing to territorial authority staff or the Licensing Inspector.

It is important to note that if the application is incomplete it may be returned by the agencies and this will impact on time taken to process the application.

Application sent for enquiry

The Secretary of the District Licensing Committee must send a copy of a completed application, including any documents filed with it, to the Police, Medical Officer of Health and Licensing Inspector for checking.

Enquiry reporting times

The Police or the Medical Officer of Health must report any matters in opposition to the application within 15 days from the date they receive the application. The Licensing Inspector must report within a reasonable timeframe.

Hints and tips

  • Build rapport with the District Licensing Committee and your partner agencies by acknowledging receipt of an application and confirming the date when oppositions must be sent by.
  • Keep lines of communication open between the District Licensing Committee and reporting agencies to ensure everyone is working to the same timeframes and expectations. Reporting agencies have a duty to collaborate by establishing and maintaining arrangements with each other to ensure ongoing monitoring and enforcement, and by working together to develop and implement strategies to reduce alcohol-related harm.
  • It is good practice for the Police and Medical Officer of Health to send a response to every application, including ‘no opposition’ where appropriate.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector (compulsory).
Police (only required if opposing application).
Medical Officer of Health (only required if opposing application).

Do the plans adequately define the licensed premises?

  • Carefully inspect the plan. Applications sometimes include areas that the applicant is not entitled to include eg, part of a public place. 

Does the plan adequately and clearly show any designated areas?

  • Typically, clubs are undesignated. However, the Act allows for clubs to designate all or part of the premises as supervised or restricted (s.119). This could be done on a time basis eg, supervised before 9pm and restricted after 9pm.

Does the plan identify the principal entrance/s?

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector.

Confirm tenure of premises

Does the applicant own the premises?

  • In the application form the applicant is required to state whether he or she owns the proposed premises.

If the applicant is not the owner, he or she:

  • may provide written consent from the legal owner to licence the premises
  • must state the form and length of tenure, and provide the full legal name and address of the owner. Tenure can take many forms including leases, assigned leases, sub-leases and rental agreements. Some territorial authorities may ask for evidence of the tenure (eg, lease agreement).

Does the applicant have proper tenure for all the areas sought to be licensed?

  • For example, If the land is owned by someone else such as the territorial authority. This consent may be different to the s.100(f) certificate tendered with the application.
  • Refer to the submitted plans to see if any of the points above are included in the areas sought to be licensed. If so, ensure an appropriate consent is attached.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector.


Check evidence of compliance with fire safety standards

Confirm the fire declaration states that the owner provides and maintains an evacuation scheme, or that the owner is not required to do so because of the building's current use, or that the owner is exempt from doing so because of the nature of the building.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector.

The applicant

To apply for a club licence, the applicant must be a club.

"Club" is defined in s.5 of that Act as:

  1. Is a body corporate having as its object (or as one of its objects) participating in or promoting a sport or other recreational activity, otherwise than for gain; or
  2. Is a body corporate whose object is not (or none of whose objects is) gain; or
  3. Holds a permanent club charter.

Administration requirements for club licence state that the holder of a club licence must take all practical steps to ensure that:

  • there is at all times a secretary of the club; and within 10 working days of the appointment of a new secretary, the secretary of the appropriate DLC is told the name of the new club secretary; and
  • all proceeds from the sale of alcohol belong to the club s.61.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector and Police.

Suitability may be established by considering a range of factors. Each agency will consider specific areas of an applicant’s suitability, as set out in the table below (note, this is not an exhaustive list of factors, and the roles allocated are indicative only).

Licensing Inspector Police Health  
* * *

Previous experience

Check for previous experience in the operation of licensed premises or in the hospitality industry. If they do not have experience, check to see if they have an experienced general manager or experience in other businesses.

Previous convictions

Vet the applicant, all directors, shareholders and others associated with the application, using the National Intelligence Application (NIA).

Note: ARLA has set some guidelines in relation to convictions (G L Osbourne decision 2388/95).

  • A five-year period of no offending for serious convictions either involving alcohol or arising in the course of the applicant’s duty on a licensed premises.
  • A minimum of two years free from conviction for any minor convictions or single conviction not disclosing a pattern of offending.
These are guidelines only and were applied in the context of an application for a manager's certificate. For a licensee, previous convictions are relevant but are merely one of the factors to take into account when determining suitability.
* * *

Character and reputation

  • Intelligence on character and reputation can come from any source, including public objectors.
  • Character and reputation can be gauged if the applicant is holds a temporary authority prior to obtaining his or her off-licence. This gives the regulatory agencies an opportunity to view the licensee in action.
  • Reporting on character and reputation allows the regulatory agencies to look beyond previous convictions. This may involve checks on associates and investigating links to groups that may be unsuitable ie, gangs or organised criminal groups.
* * *

Training and qualifications

  • Check the applicant has the appropriate systems, staff and training to comply with the law.
  • Copies of any relevant qualifications and certificates should accompany the application or be sought.
  • Ensure the applicant has the appropriate staff training in place, you may want to ask for training manuals or logs.
* * *

Knowledge of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act

If there is any doubt about the validity or value of the qualifications supplied, the Licensing Inspector will meet with the applicant to quiz them on their knowledge.

* *  

Previous unlawful operation of premises

  • Certain breaches of the Act will result in a ‘holding’ against the licence. A holding is an adverse finding in an ARLA hearing. If there are three such holdings within three years then the licence can be cancelled for five years.
  • Offences and breaches of the Act that will generate a holding are held electronically in a central repository managed by ARLA and accessible by Police and Licensing Inspectors.
* * *

Breach of any undertaking

An undertaking is a promise offered by a licensee in order to allow the granting of a licence, where some doubt over suitability may be cast. If this undertaking or promise is broken, it will have a significant impact on the applicant’s suitability.
* * * Any of the above in relation to other people involved in the application.
* * *

Can the applicant prove how income is derived or where the purchase money has been sourced?

  • Check that the applicant is not fronting the premises for possible unsuitable persons.
  • You may require the applicant to provide some specific documentary evidence to ensure that the business is theirs.
  • Most applicants will willingly respond to such enquiries. If they become defensive and start citing issues of commercial sensitivity, then further investigation may be required.

Document and keep a complete record of all enquiries as this may later need to be used in evidence.

Assessing the type of business sought to be licensed

Does the applicant engage or propose to engage in the sale of goods other than alcohol and food, and if so, which goods eg, tobacco.

Does the applicant engage or propose to engage in the provision of services other than those directly related to the sale of alcohol, and if so, which services?

Licensee host responsibility

Is the food adequate for the type of premises?

  • The holder of a club licence must ensure that, at all times when alcohol is sold or supplied, a reasonable range of food is available for sale and consumption on the premises, in portions suitable for a single customer, at reasonable prices and within a reasonable time of being ordered. District Licensing Committees will require a menu to be submitted as part of the application.

Are the steps to be taken in relation to minors and intoxicated customers adequate?

  • These measures relate to the provisions of the Act relating to minors and intoxication. Some District Licensing Committees will require these to be outlined in a Host Responsibility Policy. You may wish to request this as part of your suitability assessment, should it not be included in the application.

Are the steps to be taken in respect of alternative transport adequate?

  • This is usually addressed in a Host Responsibility policy. You may wish to request this as part of your suitability assessment, should it not be included in the application.

Trading restrictions

This section looks at ensuring the club licence aligns with any policies or regulations that may place restrictions on the trading hours for a licence.

Are there any restrictions on hours imposed by resource consent or a Local Alcohol Policy (LAP), or has an undertaking been made in relation to days and hours of trade?

Territorial authorities may have an operational LAP. Check with your District Licensing Committee to see if a LAP is in place and, if so, what conditions the LAP permits.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector and Police

Is there any other legislation that may prevent the granting of this application?

  • A District Plan sets out policies and rules on the use, development and protection of land and natural resources in line with the RMA eg, operating a tavern in a trust area, park, reserve or on Department of Conservation land. 

Amenity and good order

Is the amenity and good order of the locality likely to be reduced, by more than a minor extent, by the effects of the issue of the licence?

  • This means the extent to which the locality in which the premises concerned is situated, is pleasant and agreeable. This is a subjective view and guidance will be derived from case law.
  • Regard must be had to current and possible future levels of noise, nuisance and vandalism; the number of existing premises that hold any type of alcohol licence in the locality; and the extent to which the purposes for which land near the premises concerned is used are compatible with the purposes for which those premises will be used if the licence is issued.

Is the amenity and good order of the locality already so badly affected by the effects of the current licences in the area that:

  • the issue of this licence would be unlikely to reduce the amenity and good order of the locality further (or would be likely to reduce it further to only a minor extent); but it is nevertheless desirable not to issue any further licences?

This is also subjective and requires an assessment of the effect (if any) of the premises already located in the area.

For a renewal, the question is whether the amenity and good order of the locality is likely to be increased, by more than a minor extent, by the effects of a refusal to renew the licence.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector. Medical Officer of Health. Police


Hints and tips


Site visits

The Licensing Inspector may conduct an initial inspection to ensure that:

  • all signage is in place
  • all staff are appropriately trained
  • a certificated manager is well versed with the running of the premises
  • a Host Responsibility Policy and implementation plan are in place
  • a CPTED assessment may also be carried out at this time and any issues can be raised
  • (for existing premises) that they are operating in accordance with their licence conditions, any undertakings, and the Act.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector, Medical Officer of Health and Police.

Compulsory and discretionary conditions

The following conditions are compulsory:

  • Stating the days and hours during which alcohol may be sold or delivered (s.110(2)).
  • Stating the fees payable for licensing the premises (s.110(2)).
  • Stating (directly or by description) a place or places on the premises at which drinking water is freely available to customers, while the premises are open for business (s110(2)).

The following conditions are discretionary (s.110(1)):

  • Prescribing steps to be taken by the licensee to ensure that the provisions of the Act relating to the sale of alcohol to prohibited persons and the management of the premises are observed.
  • Prescribing the people or kinds of person to whom alcohol may be sold or supplied.
  • Imposing a one-way door restriction.

The District Licensing Committee/ARLA may also impose any other reasonable condition that is not inconsistent with the Act (s.117).

An undertaking is a written promise offered as security for the performance of a particular act required in a legal action eg, a licensee makes a promise (or undertaking) not to make single sales of RTDs. Undertakings arose because the previous legislation (Sale of Liquor Act 1989) restricted the scope of discretionary conditions.

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 made wider provision for general conditions, negating the need for undertakings.  What were previously offered as undertakings should now be imposed as conditions on the licence. This affords greater powers to the Police and Licensing Inspector to monitor and enforce compliance with licence conditions.

An undertaking may be appropriate in a small number of cases, for example, where a licensee agrees to remove some signs from their premises within an agreed period of time or before issue of a licence. 


  • Check the licensee's trading history. Have there been any complaints?
  • Have any inspections resulted in verbal or written warnings?
  • Have there been any breaches of licence conditions, undertakings or the Act?
  • Have there been any noise or nuisance complaints to local authority during past trading?
  • Check that the applicant continues to qualify for the licence endorsement as an caterer if applicable (s.126)

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector. Police.

Since the current licence was issued, does the applicant have any new convictions, or have any significant other issues regarding the management of the premises arisen?

  • If there have been issues involving the management of the premises, raise these in the report.
  • Check the National Intelligence Application (NIA). Report any new convictions since the current licence was issued. If there are any new serious or relevant convictions consider opposing the application for renewal.
  • If a renewal is opposed based on new convictions, consider lodging an application pursuant to s.280 for the cancellation of the licence.
  • If at any time you become aware that a licensee has been charged with or convicted of any serious offence, consider lodging an enforcement application pursuant to s.280 immediately.

Who does this?


If you disagree with any proposed variation(s), you should state your opposition in your report. You may wish to take a stance in relation to the appropriate condition/s to be applied to the licence.

Hours/days of operation
Some licensees may wish to extend their hours. This is something that the Licensing Inspector will address following consultation with the other regulatory agencies. Any request for an extension of hours must be considered in the context of any inconsistencies between the conditions as proposed to be varied and any relevant LAP or District Plan requirements. An application to extend the hours of operation may also require new resource consent.

Variations to premises
Sometimes changes to the premises may be proposed, ongoing or completed. The premises may be renovated or extended. Depending on the nature of the changes, a building certificate may be required and new plans required.  

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector.

All staff should have regular training and a record of this should be maintained as evidence. This helps to demonstrate that the premises is well-run and that staff understand their legal obligations.  You may also want to see the content of any training to ensure it is suitable for the operation of the premises.  The applicant may also have policies and procedures in place relating to the sale and supply of alcohol that you may want to view.

Who does this?

Licensing Inspector. Police. Ministry of Health.


  • s.60 Sale and supply in clubs to members and guests only.
  • s.61 Administrative requirements for club licences.
  • s.62 No bring-your-own alcohol in clubs.
  • s.212 Appointment of managers.
  • s.215 Circumstances where manager on duty does not apply.

  • s.3 Purpose of Act
  • s.4 Object of Act
  • ss.43-45 Permitted trading hours
  • s.46 No sale or supply outside permitted trading hours
  • s.47A ANZAC Day trading hours for RNZRSA licensed clubs
  • ss.51-54 Non-alcoholic drinks, low alcohol drinks, food, transport information all to be available
  • s.57 Display of signs and licence
  • s.100 Form of application
  • s.103 Police, Medical Officer of Health, and Inspector must inquire into applications
  • s.105 Criteria for issue of licences
  • s.106 Considering effects of issue or renewal of licence on amenity and good order of locality
  • s.110 Particular conditions
  • s.120 Variation of conditions
  • s.127 Application for renewal of licence
  • s.131 Criteria for renewal
  • s.280 Variation, suspension or cancellation of licences other than special licences
  • s.239 Sale or supply of alcohol to people under purchase age

  • Form 5 (Sale and Supply of Alcohol Regulations 2013). Application for club licence or renewal of club licence.
  • Note that different District Licensing Committees may have developed their own application forms/ additional requirements.

Roles and responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities include:

  • Acting independently when exercising and performing duties.
  • Checking submitted plans, tenure and fire safety standards compliance.
  • Checking suitability of the applicant:
    • convictions
    • ability to hold the licence
    • training and qualifications, knowledge of the Act
    • assessing type of business sought to be licensed
    • intelligence held
    • Companies Office and Personal Property Securities Register (PPRS)
    • immigration status
    • the location or event designation
    • compliance.
  • Vetting of previous history or compliance issues.
  • Targeting-to-risk to reduce harm.
  • Site-checking new premises.
  • Commenting on CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).
  • Considering any designation.
  • Monitoring and enforcing compliance with the Act, including undertaking compliance checks.
  • Having knowledge of the key territorial authority partners who have supporting information.
  • Making sure applications are complete (if delegated from the Secretary of the District Licensing Committee).
  • Inspection of premises.
  • Providing information on alcohol management plans and host responsibility.
  • Applying assessment criteria for application, including amenity and good order.
  • Interviewing applicants and referees.
  • Reporting on all applications.
  • Undertaking Controlled Purchase Operations in conjunction with Police where required.
  • Giving evidence to the District Licensing Committee by speaking to the report, if required.

Overall the Inspector's role is crucial – it is their responsibility to report to the District Licensing Committee on every aspect of s.105, 106 /131 criteria but also how an application/applicant satisfies the purpose and object of the Act in ss. 3 and 4.

Roles and responsibilities include the following:

  • Checking suitability of the applicant
    • convictions, character and reputation
    • intelligence held
    • immigration status
    • Companies Office and Personal Property Securities Register (PPRS)
    • the location or event designation
    • compliance.
  • Vetting of previous history or compliance issues.
  • Targeting-to-risk to reduce harm.
  • Assessing amenity and good order impacts (including crime).
  • Site-checking new premises.
  • Providing a report if opposed to an application (Smart Client report).
  • Giving evidence by speaking to the report, if required.
  • Commenting on CPTED (Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design).
  • Monitoring and enforcement – undertaking compliance checks.
  • Undertaking Controlled Purchase Operations.

A Public Health Regulatory Officer will generally report on behalf of the Medical Officer of Health (see s.151 delegations). Roles and responsibilities include:

  • checking suitability of the applicant to prevent alcohol-related harm in relation to host responsibility
  • assessing the design and layout of the premises
  • checking Host Responsibility Policy and implementation plan are operational
  • undertaking Health Impact Assessments
  • providing risk profiles – outlining the risk to communities
  • supporting and assisting in controlled purchase operations
  • providing support to reduce alcohol-related health risks
  • providing a report if opposed to an application
  • giving evidence by speaking to the report, if required
  • linking local/community public health issues to alcohol-related harm and the operation of the licence.