A high-powered delegation this afternoon gathered at Parliament to release a public statement endorsing the Law Commission's recommendations on alcohol.

The Law Commission in April released a report calling for the drinking age to be raised, alcohol prices to be in creased and restaurants and bars to be closed at 4am.

Today a petition was tabled urging Government action to reduce the "enormous negative impact that alcohol is causing".

The petition's 15 signatories included three knights and two dames, two former Governors-General, three archbishops, leaders of the Maori and Pacific communities and sports icons.

The group called for all political parties to make public their policies on alcohol and stop using the conscience vote as a way of avoiding this "major social problem of our time".

The media conference was chaired by National MP Jackie Blue, who said there were 700,000 problem drinkers in New Zealand, who inflicted social costs totalling $25 billion a year.

Sir Lloyd Geering said alcohol today was a greater problem than it was at the start of the twentieth Century, when the prohibition debate was taking place.

He said back then you couldn't go out "after 6pm without striking a string of drunken people anywhere in New Zealand".

Asked about keeping the purchase age at 18, he said there was no secret age when people suddenly started acting responsibly.

"Some 20 to 25-year-olds are not very responsible. Many don't become so until they get into their forties."

He said raising the purchase age back to 20 was doable because it used to be 20.

Sir Mason Durie said that alcohol was a public health problem that New Zealand had not dealt with in contrast to the strong stance the country had taken on tobacco.

Dame Te Muranga Batley-Jackson, who spent 20 years on the Parole Board, said alcohol was "evil" and that alcohol was a factor in virtually all violent offences committed.

Dame Te Muranga said that in South Auckland there had been a proliferation of alcohol outlets and she said there needed to be stronger leadership on this issue, including among Maori.

"All is not well, writing reports is great but we need more action at the coalface."

Sir Paul Reeves said there was an easy solution but until now there had been no political will to enact measures, including strong regulations on marketing and advertising and reducing accessibility and availability.

Sir Paul said he hoped the Government would reconsider its stance on excise tax on alcohol.

"You can get three bottles of wine for $20 - we must get rid of that."

He advocated a raise in the purchase age to 20.

The group also endorsed a reduction in the legal blood-alcohol concentration level for drivers from .8 to .05 and zero tolerance for youth drivers.

Signatories:
* Sir Paul Reeves, former Governor-General (convenor).

* Dame Silvia Cartwright, former Governor-General.

* Archbishop John Dew, Catholic primate.

* Professor Sir Mason Durie, Maori health expert.

* Georgina Earl (Evers-Swindell), rowing gold medallist.

* Jeanette Fitzsimons, former Green Party co-leader.

* Sir Lloyd Geering, theologian.

* Dame Te Muranga Batley-Jackson, Manukau Urban Maori Authority founder.

* Michael Jones, ex-All Black.

* Dr Semisi Maia'i, Pacific Medical Association co-founder.

* Caroline Meyer (Evers-Swindell), rowing gold medallist.

* Archbishop David Moxon, Anglican leader.

* Inga Tuigamala, ex-All Black.

* Archbishop Brown Turei, Anglican leader.