Alcohol reforms ‘watered down’

NZ Herald 12 Dec 2012
The long road to reforming New Zealand’s alcohol laws has ended amid bitter protests that the legislation was a pale imitation of the landmark Law Commission report it was based on. MPs passed the reforms yesterday, which means that in 12 months’ time bars will have to close earlier, alcohol promotions will be limited and parents will have to give express consent to allow minors to drink. Justice Minister Judith Collins said the reforms struck a sensible balance by reducing the serious harm caused by alcohol without penalising people who drank responsibly. She said it would not be the full answer and New Zealanders needed to take responsibility for their drinking habits. The third reading of the bill marked the end of a long debate on alcohol laws which was sparked by the Labour Government in 2008. The Law Commission carried out a two-year investigation, which included commissioners observing binge drinking firsthand in downtown areas. It provided 153 recommendations for the government in 2010, most crucially a 50 per cent tax increase on alcohol and a higher purchase age. The National-led Government immediately dismissed a tax hike, and a higher purchase age was shot down by MPs in a conscience vote in September.

The changes

Consent Parents or guardians must give consent for minors to drink. It will be a criminal offence (with $2000 penalty) to supply alcohol without such consent.
RTDs A voluntary code to be created by industry. Government will have the power to restrict the sale of RTDs if no code is forthcoming.
Hours Bars, clubs and restaurants to close between 4am and 8am, and stores from 11pm to 7am.
Age Buying age remains at 18. Alcohol given to 18 and 19-year-olds in a private setting must be supplied responsibly.
ID A criminal offence for using a fake ID, or lending ID to someone knowing it is for buying alcohol.
Shops Convenience stores banned from selling beer, wine and spirits. Some will be allowed to sell other alcohol.
Supermarkets Alcohol displays and promotions limited to a single, non-prominent area.
Councils Will have power to formulate policies on opening hours, ban alcohol outlets near schools, or impose conditions on licensed venues.
Licensing Fees determined by associated “risk” of venue – capacity, opening hours, and record. Bars or managers who sell to drunks and/or those underage three times in three years will lose their licence or manager’s certificate.
Advertising Further restrictions, including on the promotion of free alcohol outside bars and advertising discounts of 25% or more at off-licence premises.
Price A minimum price regime is being investigated.

* all changes listed come into force in 12 months’ time