Alcohol Law Reform Package

( Justice Minister Simon Power has today unveiled the Government’s integrated and comprehensive alcohol law reform package.

The package responds to the Law Commission’s review of alcohol laws contained in the report: Alcohol in Our Lives: Curbing the Harm.

“The statistics can’t be ignored and clearly show a problem with alcohol that must be addressed,” Mr Power said.

“Alcohol is estimated to contribute to 1,000 deaths a year, and is a major driver of crime, being implicated in 30 per cent of all police recorded offences, 34 per cent of recorded family violence, and 50 per cent of all homicides.

“What the Government has heard from the New Zealand public is that the pendulum has swung too far towards relaxation of alcohol laws.

“Today we are responding to the public’s call for action. This package adopts in full, or in part, 126 of the 153 Law Commission recommendations, as well as making other changes.

“It focuses on minimising alcohol-related harm, including crime, disorder, and public health problems, and zeros in on where harm is occurring – particularly around youth.

“But there is a balance to be struck between not unfairly affecting responsible drinkers and dealing with the considerable harm alcohol causes.”

Key features of the package include:

* Introducing a graduated approach to purchasing alcohol – 18 years of age for on-licences and 20 years of age for off-licences.

* Restricting RTDs to 5 per cent alcohol content and limiting RTDs to containers holding no more than 1.5 standard drinks.

* Making it an offence for anyone other than a parent or guardian to provide alcohol to an under-18-year-old without a parent’s or guardian’s consent.

* Where alcohol is provided to an under-18-year-old the parent, guardian or authorised person will need to ensure the alcohol is supplied in a responsible manner.

* Allowing the Minister of Justice, in consultation with the Minister of Health, to ban alcohol products which are particularly appealing to minors or particularly dangerous to health.

* Empowering local communities to decide on the concentration, location, and hours of alcohol outlets (including one-way-door policies) for both on and off-licences in their area through the adoption of local alcohol policies.

* Setting national default maximum hours of 7am – 11pm for off-licences and 8am – 4am for on-licence, club licence, and special licences for local authorities who do not adopt a local alcohol policy.

* Broadening the matters that must be considered in licensing decision-making to include such things as the object of the Act, the provision of the local alcohol policy, and whether the amenity or good order of the area would be lessened if the licence is granted.

* Strengthening the law on the type of stores eligible for an off-licence to reinforce the current approach that dairies and convenience stores are not eligible.

* Increasing penalties for a range of licence breaches, including allowing an intoxicated person to be on licensed premises, allowing violent behaviour to take place on premises, and running an irresponsible promotion.

* Widening the definition of ‘public place’ in liquor bans to include car parks, school grounds and other private spaces to which the public has legitimate access.

* Strengthening the existing offence of promotion of excessive consumption of alcohol by making it apply to any business selling or promoting alcohol, and setting out examples of unacceptable promotions, such as giving away free alcohol.

* Making it an offence to promote alcohol in a way that has special appeal to people under the purchase age. These changes will apply to any promotion, including TV advertising and billboards.

* Investigating a minimum pricing regime by giving retailers a year to provide sales and price data. If they are not forthcoming the Government will consider regulatory options for obtaining this data.

* Improving public education and treatment services for people with dependency issues.

* Requiring Parliament to lead by example by removing its licensing exemption.

“This package is a starting point for Parliament’s consideration of our alcohol laws and we will listen carefully to the public through the select committee process.

“I hope to introduce legislation to Parliament in October and plan to pass it into law before the end of this parliamentary term.”

Media Release 23 August 2010 from Simon Power, Minister of Justice.