The drinking age should be raised back to 20. That's the view of most people surveyed by the  Bay of Plenty Times in Tauranga following news that the country's MPs will have a conscience vote on the issue.
The unscientific poll of 100 Tauranga people showed 66 per cent wanted to see the drinking age raised, with 30 per cent wanting to see it stay at 18. Four per cent remained undecided.
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges has indicated he will be "heavily guided" by the views of his electorate when making his conscience vote in Parliament on the issue.
The drinking age was thrust back into the limelight after the National Government decided how it will vote on upcoming alcohol reform legislation, putting the drinking age to a conscience vote and the rest to a party vote.
A possible move to raise the drinking age has been welcomed by Tauranga leaders working with young people and alcohol, but they say more change is needed.
A report from the Law Commission released in April made 153 recommendations on reducing the harm caused by alcohol, including tax increases and a wide-reaching tightening of rules around the sale of alcohol.
The legislation around alcohol reform has not yet been released.
Mount Maunganui GP Tony Farrell, a Fellow of the Chapter of Addiction Medicine and head of the Tauranga branch of the Alcohol Action Group, supported raising the drinking age, but said it would not go far enough.
"The most important thing the government could do is raise the prices of alcohol, and reduce advertising and availability.
"Raising the age will have some impact but not nearly enough to stem the tide of alcohol related damage.
"This is not the most important issue with respect to solving the binge drinking problem."
Dr Farrell wanted to see the Government fully adopt the Law Commission's recommendations.
He was also concerned that a conscience vote might not be based on evidence.
Otumoetai College principal Dave Randell also supported raising the drinking age to 20. But he said legislation was not enough - society needed to stamp out the binge drinking culture.
"We need to teach people to be more responsible with alcohol. Here in New Zealand we just dump it on our young people. I don't think they have the maturity at 18 [to drink alcohol responsibly].
"Probably raising the drinking age isn't the answer, but it it's a step in the right direction."
Mr Randell said he had heard of students under 18 buying alcohol from liquor stores, even when wearing school uniform.
Stuart Caldwell, manager of the Get Smart drug and alcohol agency, said he hoped MPs would "have the nous" to use the opportunity to raise the drinking age to 20.
"It was totally insane to lower it, and the culture that we have now of binge drinking has infiltrated down to children who are 11, 12, 13.
"When they brought it down to 18, it was a little like the speed limit - when it's 100km/h, people go to 109-110km/h, because they can. So when it's 18, 16-year-olds think they are good to drink."
Tauranga MP Simon Bridges said he "was inclined" to vote to increase the alcohol purchase age.
"While the majority of people drink responsibly, I think there's a minority that, often very young, have real problems with alcohol.
"There's been a number of high profile cases in recent times involving teenagers causing real harm to themselves. and in the community. from too much drinking."
The MP also expressed support of a split age limit, of 18 for on-licence alcohol sales at venues such as bars and restaurants, and 20 for off-licences.
But he said he would be "heavily guided" by Tauranga residents when it came to the conscience vote, and welcomed feedback.
"Certainly I have had a number of constituents visit me and write to me about their concerns in relation to alcohol. I haven't had anyone tell me that they think the laws should be made more lenient. I have only had people tell me that they think there's a real problem."
He said Tauranga residents had expressed concern about teenagers drinking cheap pre-mix alcoholic drinks, and "causing havoc".
Many had expressed a desire for tougher alcohol laws, and a legal drinking age of 20.