The price of a tipple is unlikely to rise as the Government shuns a floor price for alcohol.

This week the Supreme Court in Scotland ruled that the Scottish Government could implement a minimum price for alcohol, following a five-year legal battle with the Scotch Whisky Association.

The move was hailed by health groups in New Zealand, but Justice Minister Andrew Little told the Herald that he was "lukewarm at best" and minimum pricing because it would unfairly affect "the vast majority of people who safely consume alcohol".

"This Government has no intention of revisiting current alcohol laws anytime soon. This is not something we're getting into," Little said.


This is a stark contrast to Labour's position in 2011, when it was a staunch supporter of minimum pricing under sweeping alcohol law reform.

In 2014, the Ministry of Justice looked into a minimum price of $1 and $1.20 per standard drink, finding that the former would save society $318 million over 10 years, while the latter would save $624 million over 10 years.

It noted that minimum pricing would affect low-priced drinks, but raising the excise tax would be a stronger tool for changing consumer behaviour because it affected the prices of all alcoholic drinks.

But the report recommended holding off considering a minimum price until 2019, so that the effects of the 2011 reforms can be more accurately seen.

Alcohol Healthwatch executive director Dr Nicki Jackson implored the Government to reconsider.

"Disadvantaged groups experience more alcohol harm than others, so they benefit more from minimum unit pricing - reductions in hospital admissions, fewer traffic incidents. If the Government wants to make New Zealand a fairer place, minimum pricing is exactly the way to go.

"If a floor price was set at $1.20 per standard drink, the lowest a 750ml bottle of wine could be sold for is $9.23. It is simply absurd that you can currently buy a 1L bottle of spirits (containing 29 standard drinks) for less than $27."

She said holding off the issue for years - which is effectively what happened with the legal battle in Scotland - would cost lives.


"As in Scotland, hundreds of people have died in the meantime, thousands have been admitted to hospital because of abuse of alcohol. We need action now.

"The price of alcohol needs to increase - $7 for a bottle of wine is not right. The cost of harm is astronomical."