Hunter Aldi alcohol sales approved

ALDI will enter the Hunter’s supermarket liquor war, with the NSW government approving nine applications for alcohol sales at its stores in the region.

Aldi stores in Hamilton, Cooks Hill, Belmont, Cardiff, Cessnock, Raymond Terrace, East Maitland, Rutherford and Muswellbrook were given the green light to sell alcohol.

They are not expected to need development approval from councils because their plans involve selling liquor in 40 square-metre areas inside stores.

It is believed that Aldi will make liquor licence applications for other Hunter stores including Mount Hutton.

An Aldi spokeswoman said liquor would be available at selected stores in the Hunter Region by September.

‘‘A range of beer, wine, spirits and ready-to-drink beverages will be available at great value,’’ she said.

Aldi’s move follows aggressive expansion from Woolworths and Coles and increased sales of cheap liquor in the region’s bottle-shop market.

NSW Health objected to Aldi’s bid for liquor licences at most stores, documents show.

The health department was concerned the liquor licences would ‘‘contribute to further alcohol-related harm’’ and ‘‘place strain on the health system’’.

In promoting its Cooks Hill plan, Aldi cited Woolworths research in a submission to the NSW government’s Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority.

‘‘A new entrant’s market share is gained at the expense of existing sellers,’’ it said.

It argued that new entrants ‘‘had not resulted in any increase in volumes of liquor sold’’.

The liquor authority said it assessed applications for liquor licences on merit.

‘‘The authority considers proposed trading hours and proximity to hospitals, schools, churches and parks,’’ a spokesman said.

It also considered matters raised during public consultation, nearby licensed venues and alcohol-related crime statistics.

The office required applicants to prepare community impact statements and consult police, councils, Roads and Maritime Services, Department of Community Services, NSW Health and residents.

Aldi’s spokeswoman said the stores ‘‘only sell alcohol during trading hours and are not open as late or long as regular bottle shops’’.

No more than 100 types of liquor would be sold.

Traditional liquor stores were more than 100 square metres and sold more than 1000 types of alcohol, Aldi said.

Liquor would not be sold refrigerated.

‘‘Customers buy alcohol in Aldi stores as part of a normal household food and beverage purchase,’’ Aldi’s spokeswoman said.

Newcastle High School opposed the Cooks Hill plan, saying in a submission that ‘‘bottles were frequently found smashed in the school grounds’’.

Some students were legally able to drink alcohol and there was concern about student access to cheap liquor.

Newcastle High School P&C Association’s submission said the area was ‘‘already saturated with liquor outlets’’.

Police said in a submission to the Muswellbrook plan that there were sufficient licensed premises in the area.

Alcohol control advocate Tony Brown said strong scientific evidence existed to link outlet density to violence.

‘‘Even the Independent Liquor Gaming and Racing Authority acknowledged this when they knocked back the Kensington nightclub in Newcastle,’’ he said.

Police Association of NSW president Scott Weber said the increase in access to cheap alcohol in the Hunter was a serious concern to emergency workers.

‘‘This region already has the highest rate of risky drinking in the state and higher than average levels of domestic violence,’’ he said.

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