Vaimoana Tapaleao is the New Zealand Herald's Pacific Affairs and People reporter.

Youth 'scapegoats' for alcohol issue - lobbyist

Auckland bar manager Nicola Reid, 20, thinks reform would be helpful to stop younger customers misbehaving. Photo / Richard Robinson
Auckland bar manager Nicola Reid, 20, thinks reform would be helpful to stop younger customers misbehaving. Photo / Richard Robinson

Eighteen to 20 year-olds can become a prostitute, a soldier, vote and get married but if the Government listens to the Law Commission, they may not be able to have a beer.

A report by the Law Commission tabled in Parliament yesterday proposed raising the drinking age from 18 to 20.

The proposed move - as part of 153 recommendations made by the Commission - is unlikely to happen.

Keep It 18 spokeswoman Jenna Raeburn said if John Key was 18 right now he would be unlikely to support increasing the drinking age.

Her group, made up of the youth wings of the National, Labour, Act and Green Parties already has 1500 supporters on their Facebook page.

"There will be massive opposition amongst young people," she said.

Ms Raeburn said the Law Commission's report was arguing for legislation that would stop young people having a glass of wine with dinner.

"The industry and young people are being scape-goated for the actions of some individuals. It should focus on those making harm," she said.

Ms Raeburn said the group supported some of the proposals such as charging people $250 who are taken home by police or spend the night in the cells.

She said the group would be lobbying members of Parliament in the hope that they will oppose raising the drinking age.

But not all young people support keeping the drinking age at 18.

Many younger punters said they agreed that the alcohol purchasing age needed to be raised; while others said that changing the drinking age would not make much of a difference.

One Auckland City bar manager, Nicola Reid, said she had seen first-hand the "silly" behaviour that came with younger drinkers.

"We get a lot of 18-year-olds and around the 19 to 20 years [age group]. They do start to get a little bit silly, trying to reach over the counter to turn on the tap and there've been lots of fights," Miss Reid said.

"I think raising it to 20 would be good."

Danielle Pentecost, 19, agreed that the drinking age was "a bit too young".

"I don't have anything against [raising] it. It's all the young people that abuse alcohol [consumption] - there's lots of 14 and 16-year-olds who get in to bars and things," she said. "But at the same time, I've seen 40-year-olds abusing it as well."

Other people moved away from the raising of the age, saying the main problem that needed to be addressed was the drinking culture problem.

Ben Stuart, 23, said he did not particularly believe that raising the alcohol purchasing age to 20 would make a difference. Mr Stuart said the drinking culture among not only youngsters but society as a whole needed to be addressed.

"I've noticed that over here and in Australia, it's pretty full on," he said. "Of course it's like that overseas too, but [drinking] is more controlled overseas, rather than over here."

One woman in her 40s, who would only identify herself as Rachel, said she was not confident that putting the age back to 20 would change the drinking culture among young people.

She said alcohol was "too widely available".

"Look around you, it's almost at every dairy," she said. "You walk into a supermarket and the first thing you see is alcohol; it's right there, it's even before the fruit! Eighteen is probably okay, I just think it's the drinking culture that needs addressing."

- NZ Herald

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