Council pushes for lower alcohol levels

By Wayne Thompson

Auckland Council wants lowering of alcohol levels for drivers included in the Alcohol Reform Bill. File photo / Herald on Sunday
Auckland Council wants lowering of alcohol levels for drivers included in the Alcohol Reform Bill. File photo / Herald on Sunday

Auckland Council wants lowering of alcohol levels for drivers and raising excise tax on liquor included in the Alcohol Reform Bill.

Councillor George Wood, who is community safety forum chairman, said these matters were left out of the bill despite being recommended by the Law Commission's July 2009 review of liquor laws.

"The council endorses the clear findings of the commission report Alcohol in our Lives: Curbing the Harm. We are saying we want those matters in the reform bill.

"They've been been widely discussed and they are controversial."

The submission which Mr Wood will present to Parliament seeks lowering of the minimum blood alcohol limit from 80mg/100ml to 50mg.

The council supports the bill's proposal to change to a split drinking age for buying alcohol of 18 years for on-licences and 20 for off-licences.

It believes this will reduce access to alcohol by youth.

Mr Wood said the council disagreed with the bill by wanting the opening times for all licensed premises to be 8am instead of 7am and closing times for off-licences at 10pm instead of 11pm.

Rodney councillor Penny Webster said she was concerned about the submission to increase the excise tax.

"The effect on small boutique wineries must be considered because they will be out of business."

She also opposed lowering the alcohol limit for drivers because for many rural people a visit to their RSA or Cosmopolitan Club was their whole social life.

Andrew Bell, of Road Safety Auckland, said a 2008 study showed an 0.05 limit would save 15 to 33 lives a year across the country, which represented seven to eight lives saved in Auckland.

Sir John Walker said lowering the limit to 0.05 was just tinkering.

He said having a zero tolerance was better than people trying to guess whether they were under or over before driving.

Mr Wood said all the local boards were consulted and gave a good overview of opinions, though they were in conflict over what the minimum drinking age should be.

Henderson-Massey, Mangere-Otahuhu, Manurewa, Rodney and Waitakere Ranges supported a minimum purchase age of 20 years for all licensed premises.

Otara-Papatoetoe considered the minimum purchase age should be consistent for all types of licensed premises, while the Upper Harbour Local Board supported the bill's split buying age.

The council submission supports the Maungakiekie-Tamaki Local Board's wish for a minimum cost per unit of alcohol in order to stop retailers attracting customers with cheap drinks and and pre-loading by drinkers.

Devonport-Takapuna wants a zero blood alcohol limit for drivers up to the age of 25 and to 0.5 from there upwards.

- NZ Herald

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