Special Licences


​​Under section 137 of the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 (the Act), you will need to get a special licence if you want to sell or supply alcohol at an event (or series of events). Applications must be made at least 20 working days before the event, however as special licences take time to process, you are strongly advised to apply well before the 20 working day period.

Once your application has been accepted by Council, the NZ Police and Community & Public Health both have 15 days to report on the application. After this time the licencing inspector will prepare a report based on those finding and your own application for the District Licensing Committee (DLC) so that they can consider whether to grant or decline the application.

Just delivering your 'application' to Council or a Council Officer does not mean the application is accepted. This decision is not made until the appropriate officer has viewed the documents and determined that they meet the requirements of the Act.

If you do not supply all the information required in your application form, your application may be rejected or delayed until such time as it is supplied. This means you may then be unable to meet the 20 working day requirement and you cannot proceed with your event.

When is a special licence required

There are two types of special licences:

  • A special on licence where you sell or supply alcohol and customers drink it on site.
  • A special off licence where you sell alcohol for customers to take and drink somewhere else (includes small tastings).

Check out the following flowhart:

 Does your event need a Special Licence? (PDF, 90KB)

Examples where you need a special licence

  • Ticketed events like festivals and concerts where you supply alcohol as part of the ticket price or sell it over a bar
  • Sporting events
  • Bus, train and limo trips (known as a conveyance)
  • Licensed premises where the event is not covered by the normal licence (eg a Club with an Club-Licence that wants to hold an event for non-members or the public)
  • Venues hired for a public or private social or fundraising event (eg halls, unlicensed clubs, community rooms) where you intend to sell and supply alcohol

When a special licence is not required

  • When supplying alcohol to your guests in your own home or private function where the alcohol is free, such as a wedding or birthday party
  • When guests are bringing alcohol to your home
  • You are using a caterer who holds a licence to sell or supply alcohol at events

How to apply for a special licence

Complete the application form below.

Ensure you give full and considered answers to each question in the application and include supporting material about the events you are applying for. Your application must show:

  • the nature and purpose of the event
  • number of people and ages expected to be attending the event
  • how you are promoting the event (flyers, radio advertising, newspaper etc)

If your event is on licensed premises, you will need to show:

  • how the event is different from normal trading activity 
  • why you have to hold the event outside normal trading hours

The dates and times you apply for must be for the period of the event and not just an extension of normal licence trading hours.

Public notification may be required for larger events.

For a larger event you will need to supply a management plan which includes things such as a safety and evacuation scheme, security plans, staff, names of duty managers and transport plans.

A meeting may be requested from the joint agencies to discuss this management plan before the planned event.

How special licences are granted

Under the Act, the DLC considers all special licence applications. Usually a DLC chairperson will consider and make a decision 'on the papers'. In some cases, the committee might need to hold a public hearing.

In deciding whether to issue a licence, the licensing authority or the licensing committee concerned must have regard to the matters as set out in section 105 of the Act and each of those matters must be addressed by the applicant.

What happens before a decision is made

1.  The DLC will review the circumstances of your application as per section 105 of the Act, including:

  • your suitability as a licensee holder
  • the days and times you want to sell alcohol
  • whether you sell or provide goods or services besides alcohol
  • your proposed host responsibility arrangements
  • the design and layout of your premises, etc

2.  The DLC forward your application to the following agencies:

  • Police
  • Public health
  • Alcohol licencing inspector

3.  The agencies will inspect your premises and assess your host responsibility arrangements

4.  The agencies make a recommendation to either grant or oppose your application based upon their investigations and any objections received.

What can cause delays

  • You have not provided all the information required in the application form.
  • You need to give public notification of your application and/or you delay that notification or do it incorrectly.
  • The committee needs to hold a public hearing about your application because a member of the public objects to your application.
  • A public hearing may also be required should the Police, Medical Officer of Health or Licensing Inspector opposes the application.
  • You have to meet conditions of the District Licensing Committee before they can issue a licence.

Timelines and trading days

The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 specifies timelines, deadlines and non-working days that can impact on filing and assessment of alcohol licencing applications. The Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 defines a working day as a day that is not:

  1. A Saturday, a Sunday, Waitangi Day, Good Friday, Easter Monday, Anzac Day, the Sovereign's Birthday, or Labour Day; or
  2. A day in the period commencing on 20th December in one year and ending with 15th January in the next year.

Late applications

You legally have to submit your special licence application at least 20 working days before the date of the event. If your application is late, the DLC will not consider your application unless they consider the reason for the lateness to be that the need for a special licence could not reasonably have been foreseen earlier. The reporting agencies must all agree to any period, which reduces their response time.

Page reviewed: 13 Jan 2021 8:47am