Liquor law changes won't work - Hospitality Association

Changes to the liquor laws won't do anything to significantly reduce binge drinking or harm to young people, according to the Hospitality Association. Photo / Tania Webb
Changes to the liquor laws won't do anything to significantly reduce binge drinking or harm to young people, according to the Hospitality Association. Photo / Tania Webb

The Government's Alcohol Reform Bill won't do anything to significantly reduce binge drinking or harm to young people, the Hospitality Association says.

The bill is now in its final form after being reported back yesterday by Parliament's justice select committee, and is ready for its second reading.

Lobby groups and the Greens are berating the committee for not strengthening it, and today the Hospitality Association's chief executive, Bruce Robertson, also criticised the legislation.

"Minor restrictions on supermarkets, removing alcohol from dairies and giving local communities a greater say in where liquor outlets are located will not address the propensity for some New Zealanders to drink to get drunk," Mr Robertson said.

"A much better approach would have been to say to young people they should not drink until they are 18.

"The association still believes that a drinking age, as opposed to a purchase age, would make a much bigger difference."

The committee made 130 amendments to the bill but there were few major changes.

It decided supermarkets should be forced to display alcohol only in a single non-prominent part of the store, explicitly prohibited convenience stores from selling alcohol, and changed the minimum age for a bar manager's certificate from 18 to 20.

The proposal in the original bill for a split purchasing age of 18 in bars and 20 in off-licences hasn't been changed, and it didn't include any provision for a minimum price on drinks.

Alcohol Healthwatch said most of the thousands of organisations and individuals who made submissions to the committee had wanted the bill strengthened but it had "kicked sand in their faces".

Alcohol Action NZ said the bill was "shamefully weak" and ignored widespread public concern.

The Green Party's Sue Kedgley said the bill didn't address advertising, sponsorship or price issues.

"Submitters on the bill were absolutely clear that price is the single most important issue in reducing our binge drinking culture," Ms Kedgley said.

"We'll never reduce it if we allow alcohol to be sold so cheaply that young people can load up for binge drinking sessions every weekend."

New Zealand Winegrowers said the bill didn't do enough to recognise "positive drinking behaviour and personal responsibility of consumers".

The Labour Party said it would continue to support the bill, although the final decisions on it didn't go far enough.

"This bill makes minor amendments to the current regime...despite growing evidence that alcohol advertising increases the likelihood that young people will start drinking, or drink more, the Government has decided to kick this issue for touch and refer it to an 'expert forum'," the party said.

Justice Minister Simon Power, who introduced the bill, said he accepted all the committee's recommendations, and an expert forum would be set up to consider further restrictions on advertising and sponsorship.

The bill, as it was introduced, carries a raft of changes which give communities a greater say over liquor outlets, sets tougher rules for licence applications, permits the banning of products which are "particularly appealing to minors" and widens the definition of a public place in liquor bans to include car parks and school grounds.

It also increases penalties for a range of liquor offences, and makes it an offence for anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to anyone under 18 without a parent's or guardian's consent.

The bill now has to go through its second reading, committee and third reading states before becoming law.

Mr Power said he would see it through its second reading before Parliament adjourns on October 6, and whether it went any further depended on the time available for it to be debated.

That means it isn't likely to be enacted before the election.

- NZPA

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