Public health money wasted on a High Court challenge against a supermarket’s shelving arrangement for alcohol should have been spent helping ill patients, critics say.
Fourteen health boards throughout the country collectively paid nearly $90,000 in legal fees to try to stop Dannevirke New World changing the angle of shelves inside its already licensed alcohol area. They lost the case.
Their case was preposterous. It got dismissed by the District Licensing Authority. The ALRA found it without any merit, as did the High Court.
This was zealotry gone mad. Their argument was that having the shelves with alcohol on them at an angle, would mean people walking past an alcohol aisle would see more of the product than if they were perpendicular.
MidCentral District Health Board medical officer of health Rob Weir started the process because he was concerned shoppers outside the alcohol area were more exposed to products in the alcohol section after two large shelves were turned on a diagonal angle and two smaller plinths added. The case was important as a test to help define the limits of new alcohol laws, he told Stuff.
But the $90,000 cost of the challenge has only just been revealed after an Official Information Act request.
It was a massive waste of scarce health dollars. The link between the angle of shelves and harm caused by alcohol abuse is so tenuous that it would be like going to court to ban Easter because Easter eggs cause obesity.
Details supplied by MidCentral DHB show the initial hearing of its appeal to the Alcohol Regulatory and Licensing Authority cost $17,924, then the High Court appeal cost $69,552.
They should be ashamed.
MidCentral DHB covered both costs, but public health units representing 13 other health boards reimbursed MidCentral $57,961 of the High Court costs.
They’re like a cartel of zealots!