Lynley Bilby

Lynley Bilby is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

New liquor laws proving effective

Minors and young drunks nabbed, violence drops under new laws

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams praised the early results as a positive demonstration of what could be achieved with effective laws. Photo / NZ Herald
Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams praised the early results as a positive demonstration of what could be achieved with effective laws. Photo / NZ Herald

Police are having success getting young drunks off the streets as new liquor laws make an impact on the country's late-night drinking culture.

Official figures show that more than 2,500 fines have been issued in the first 10 weeks of the laws aimed at quelling alcohol-fuelled violence.

And officers are sheeting responsibility home to families — taking young drunks home and handing $250 fines to parents.

In some cases, siblings have been fined after letting younger family members use their IDs.

The Sale and Supply of Liquor Act gave stronger powers to authorities on December 18 last year, including spot fines for breaching liquor bans, closing bars at 4am and one-way door policies. Police say the laws are working — from December 18 to February 26, they recorded 1,258 fewer alcohol-related violent incidents compared with the corresponding time last year.

Police national alcohol harm prevention manager Inspector Ben Offner: "We expected this. Nothing good ever happens after 3am."

Under the tough new regime, police are using taxis or patrol cars to ferry boozed teens home before handing a $250 fine to parents.

"It's always a surprise to parents when we turn up at their house with their kid in the back," said Offner. "But it's often the best option because there will be someone there to take care of them."

Police have also been issuing fines to under-age teens sneaking into bars. Offner said 61 spot fines were issued in the first two months to mainly under-age drinkers caught trying to dupe bar staff. In several instances sisters were each given an instant $250 fine after the older one shared her identification with an under-aged sibling.

In the first 10 weeks of the new liquor laws, police issued 2,503 alcohol infringement notices and 1,719 warnings throughout New Zealand. Most fines were for drinking where there was an alcohol ban.

The Waikato police district, which includes New Year holiday trouble spots Whitianga and Whangamata, recorded the highest number of offences with 634 instant fines and 470 warnings. It was followed by Wellington with 748 people receiving fines and warnings. The capital city also recorded the most pronounced drop in violent crime with a 31 per cent fall in night-time disorder compared with a year ago. Queenstown had the highest number of fines for a provincial centre.

The police district of Waitemata, which encompasses West Auckland and the North Shore, recorded the lowest number of warnings and infringement notices.

Alcohol Healthwatch director Rebecca Williams praised the early results as a positive demonstration of what could be achieved with effective laws.

- Herald on Sunday

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