Retailers sell booze to minors

By Kristin Edge

Jenny Gibbs
Jenny Gibbs

Youth drug educators and police are stunned that four out of 10 Far North retailers sold booze to under 18-year-olds in an undercover sting.

Police and Northland District Health Board officials have carried out a controlled purchase operation and targeted licensed premises in Ahipara, Kaitaia, Awanui and Houhora.

The operation on Saturday tested the compliance of selling alcohol to minors at 10 premises consisting of nine off-licensed premises and one on-licensed premise. Four of the licensed premises sold alcohol to the underage drinkers.

Far North Alcohol Harm Reduction Officer Senior Constable Graeme Wright says the result was extremely disappointing. "This operation highlights how easily our youth are able to access alcohol from licensed premises in this region.

"Licensees are required to ensure they don't sell alcohol to our kids. That is why we have a system of licenses. How hard is it to stop selling to kids? Well it's real easy, no photo identification - no sale. It is that simple."

Mr Wright said the fallout from youth accessing alcohol was well documented and the Northland community needed to have confidence that licence holders would not sell alcohol to youth.

"The increased availability of cheap and or discounted alcohol available from multiple sources and close to home has attributed in rises in violence in the home and in public places.

"We will continue to test the licensed premises, but people in our communities need to look at what they are doing in their homes as well. Youth and alcohol is a big problem, but young people are by no means the only people abusing alcohol as we see the home-based drinking/parties that impact on domestic and violence incidents in our communities continue to grow."

It was the first operation in the Far North under the new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012 which came into full force in mid-December last year.

Under the legislation premises and managers/licensees of those premises are subject to three strikes - offences - then they can lose their licenses. Each offence can result in short-term suspensions of licenses, one to seven days for the premises and 30 days for the managers, and/or fines not more than $10,000 for managers and $2000 for the seller.

Rubicon Youth Alcohol and Drug Support Services, the non-government organisation delivering the services with the Northland District Health Board, works with young people in Whangarei and Kaipara. Recent funding means they will also expand into the mid and far north.

Rubicon chief executive Jenny Gibbs said alcohol was a huge issue for Northland youth and binge drinking was a major problem.

She would like those who sold alcohol to minors to see the damage and trauma it caused.

With 23 years experience in drug and alcohol counselling Ms Gibbs said young people were experimental and needed the opportunity for growth and development but with guidance.

In the last operation in the Far North in October seven off-licences were checked with only one found to be breaching the then Sale of Liquor Act.

- Northern Advocate

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