Aldi alcohol plan fears

FEARS have been raised that the NSW government’s approval of Aldi selling alcohol at nine Hunter stores will set a precedent for liquor sales at service stations, convenience stores and other supermarkets.

Newcastle councillor Tim Crakanthorp said councils should require Aldi to lodge development modifications to sell liquor in its stores.

‘‘It alters the use of the premises,’’ Cr Crakanthorp said.

Lake Macquarie Cr Barry Johnston said Aldi had used a loophole in state law that allowed liquor sales as a retail use.

‘‘They can do this without council approval,’’ he said.

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Cr Crakanthorp said allowing Aldi to sell liquor would ‘‘set a precedent for service stations, 7-Elevens and IGA supermarkets’’ to sell liquor.

‘‘It’s a loophole that has to be closed,’’ he said.

The Newcastle Herald recently reported that the state government had approved liquor sales at Aldi stores in Hamilton, Cooks Hill, Belmont, Cardiff, Cessnock, Raymond Terrace, East Maitland, Rutherford and Muswellbrook.

Council staff were consulted about the applications, but did not inform councillors.

A Newcastle council spokeswoman said councillors were only notified of alcohol-related development applications.

‘‘There’s so many different liquor-licence applications coming through, it’s not really logical to notify them of every single one,’’ the spokeswoman said.

A Lake Macquarie council statement said ‘‘councillors are not notified during this process’’.

‘‘It is up to the Office of Liquor, Gaming and Racing to do a full assessment, identify possible issues and implications and make a determination,’’ it said.

Newcastle and Lake Macquarie councils said liquor-licence applications were made public on the state liquor office’s website.

Alcohol control advocate Tony Brown said the liquor-application process lacked transparency.

Cr Johnston said the matter was ‘‘mainly a state government issue and a question of whether licensing laws should be revisited’’.

‘‘I would have liked council staff to let me know, but they were simply following process,’’ Cr Johnston said.

An Aldi statement said liquor sales would be in a ‘‘very small’’ 40-square metre area that would be a ‘‘clearly delineated and cordoned-off’’.

‘‘Unlike other supermarkets which sell alcohol, Aldi does not have separate, large-format stores,’’ the statement said.

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