Starting point for alcohol law reform introduced to Parliament
The Government's bill which targets alcohol-related harm and, in particular, youth drinking was introduced to Parliament today by Justice Minister Simon Power
“The Alcohol Reform Bill zeros in on where harm is occurring, particularly around young people," Mr Power says.
"It aims to strike a balance between dealing with the considerable harm that alcohol causes, while not unfairly penalising responsible and moderate drinkers.
“This Government sees overhauling our alcohol laws as a priority, particularly for addressing the drivers of crime, because alcohol is a major lubricant for offending.”
To tackle youth drinking, the package includes a split purchase age, gives parents more tools to manage their children’s access to alcohol, allows regulations to be made to limit the alcohol content in RTDs, allows alcohol products which are particularly dangerous or appealing to minors to be banned, and makes it an offence to promote alcohol in a way which has special appeal to minors.
“Young people suffer a high and disproportionate level of alcohol-related harm, and if we are serious about achieving a culture change then it’s important we work from the ground up.”
Mr Power says that to limit the availability of alcohol, licences will be harder to get and easier to lose, buying alcohol at corner dairies will end when current licences expire, and local communities will have more say on the concentration, location, and hours of alcohol outlets in their area.
“Local communities, not people in Wellington, are best placed to decide how alcohol licences should be treated in their own area, which is why this bill empowers communities to adopt local alcohol policies.”
The bill also strengthens advertising controls, particularly around the promotion of excessive consumption of alcohol, by setting out examples of unacceptable promotions such as giving away alcohol.
Mr Power says the Government is committed to investigating a minimum pricing regime but does not have the evidence base it needs, either locally or internationally, to set a minimum price immediately.
“We’ve given retailers a year to provide sales and price data and if they’re not forthcoming then we’ll consider regulating to obtain it.”
The Alcohol Reform Bill repeals and replaces the Sale of Liquor Act 1989 with a new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, and amends parts of the Summary Offences Act 1981, the Children, Young Persons and Their Families Act 1989, and the Local Government Act 2002.
“Legislation alone won’t turn around our binge drinking culture but it can help us develop a more moderate one through controls on availability and a focus on youth.
“In order to drive this culture change and lead by example, the Government proposes to remove Parliament’s licensing exemption.
"This bill responds to the public's call for action – that the pendulum has swung too far towards relaxation of alcohol laws.
“This package is merely Parliament’s starting point for reform, and we’ll be listening carefully to the public through the select committee process.”
It is hoped the bill will be sent to the Justice and Electoral Select Committee before the end of the year and passed into law before the end of this parliamentary term.
Mr Power says it will be up to each party’s caucus to decide how to vote on the bill. National MPs will vote along party lines except for the alcohol purchase age which will be a conscience vote.
Key features of the bill include:
• Introducing a graduated approach to purchasing alcohol: 18 years of age for on-licences and 20 for off-licences.
• Restricting RTDs to 5% 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 the consent of a parent or guardian.
• Where alcohol is provided to an under-18-year-old, the parent, guardian, or authorised person will need to ensure it 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 – 7am-11pm for off-licences and 8am-4am for on-licences, club licences, 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 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 the data.
• Improving public education and treatment services for people with dependency issues.